The FCC is postponing its net neutrality ruling while it seeks additional public feedback. The move follows an August net neutrality deal between Google and Verizon.
The Federal Communications Commission has begun a public inquiry (PDF) to get additional feedback on rules governing
network neutrality, delaying a decision on how to regulate wireless providers'
ability to curb activity on their networks. While the FCC's decision to hold
additional hearings has frustrated net neutrality advocates, industry
associations, such as CTIA, applauded the move.
The FCC announced Sept. 1 that it plans to postpone making a decision,
possibly until November.
Net neutrality involves the FCC potentially limiting the ability of ISPs
such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast to restrict certain content and sites on
their data networks.
"As the public Internet becomes a virtual 'Main Street' for e-commerce,
delivery of video content and marketing to customers, there is a concern that
network operators will use their position as ISPs to act as gatekeepers to
control network-user access to Internet-based services, applications and
content," analyst David Passmore wrote in an April 2 Gartner report.
Throughout the long public debate on net neutrality, the conversation has
moved from a focus on preventing broadband providers from restricting lawful
online content, applications and services to concentrating on transparency and
eliminating discrimination, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a
Genachowski noted that progress had been made on the issue, but the FCC wants
additional feedback on how to handle specialized services and mobile broadband.
The FCC's inquiry into net neutrality has focused on four principles, namely
consumers' ability to choose content; to choose applications and services; to
use legal devices of their choice; and to pick providers in a competitive
"The information received through this inquiry, along with the record
developed to date, will help complete our efforts to establish an enforceable
framework to preserve Internet freedom and openness," Genachowski wrote.
The CTIA wireless industry association was satisfied with the
FCC's announcement that it would look into the mobile broadband side of the
"We are happy the chairman and the commissioners realize that wireless
is different," CTIA President Steve Largent said in a statement. "We
will continue to work with them to explain why these rules are unnecessary and
should not be applied to the wireless ecosystem."
Meanwhile, Matt Wood, associate director of Media Access Project, a nonprofit law firm and communications
policy advocacy group, was unhappy with the FCC's move to seek feedback on
whether wireless broadband and specialized services require different rules,
rather than simply announcing a decision.
"The record demonstrates already that the same framework and openness
principles should apply to all broadband access services, even if the rules
differ on the basis of legitimate technological differences," Wood said in
a statement. "The record also shows that the Commission must retain authority
over specialized services."
On Aug. 9, Google and Verizon ignited a firestorm of public debate over
a proposal to outlaw discrimination against applications, content and other
traffic on the open Internet by wire-line operators.
And in April a federal appeals court ruled that the FCC could not rebuke Comcast for interfering with data transfers on
BitTorrent, an open-source file-sharing application.
The FCC's net neutrality ruling could be delayed until after the November
elections, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Brian T. Horowitz is a freelance technology and health writer as well as a copy editor. Brian has worked on the tech beat since 1996 and covered health care IT and rugged mobile computing for eWEEK since 2010. He has contributed to more than 20 publications, including Computer Shopper, Fast Company, FOXNews.com, More, NYSE Magazine, Parents, ScientificAmerican.com, USA Weekend and Womansday.com, as well as other consumer and trade publications. Brian holds a B.A. from Hofstra University in New York.