FCC Open Docket, Accepting Court Invite to Preserve an Open Internet

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2014-02-19

FCC Open Docket, Accepting Court Invite to Preserve an Open Internet

With net neutrality threatened by a January court ruling, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has said it plans to propose new rules that will reinstate its Internet-protecting power.

On Jan. 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a judgment in the case of Verizon vs. the FCC, which challenged the Open Internet Order— legislation that says all Internet traffic must be treated equally, or the practice referred to as net neutrality. The court ruled that since the FCC doesn't classify Internet service providers (ISPs) as common carriers, it has no power to enforce unreasonable-discrimination and no-blocking rules.

On Feb. 19, the FCC issued a Public Notice and with it established, it said, a "new docket within which to consider how the Commission should proceed in light of the court's guidance in the Verizon v. FCC opinion."

In its decision, the court invited the FCC to "act to preserve free and open Internet," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement.

"I intend to accept that invitation by proposing rules that will meet the court's test for preventing improper blocking of and discrimination among Internet traffic, ensuring genuine transparency in how Internet Service Providers manage traffic, and enhancing competition."

Preserving an open Internet, he added, "is an important responsibility of this agency."

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai also released a statement on his feelings about the new docket.

When the court made its announcement in January, Pai recommended that the Commission swallow the ruling and "refrain from any further attempt to micromanage how broadband providers run their networks."

Once again, he came out against further action.

FCC Opens Docket, Accepting Court Invite to Preserve an Open Internet

Likening the docket to the movie "Groundhog Day," Pai wrote, "I am skeptical that this effort will end any differently from the last. ... The Internet was free and open before the FCC adopted net neutrality rules. It remains free and open today. Net neutrality has always been a solution in search of a problem."

White House Responds to Americans' Call to Action

On Feb. 18, the White House responded to a petition calling for President Obama to protect net neutrality by classifying ISPs as common carriers.

"[The court] ruling allows ISPs to charge companies for access to its users and charge users for access to certain services. Fewer companies will be able to afford access for innovative ideas and products," stated the petition on Whitehouse.gov, which was signed by more than 105,000 people.

When a minimum of 100,000 people sign a petition on the site, the White House is obligated to respond.

"Preserving an open Internet is vital not to just the free flow of information, but also to promoting innovation and economic productivity," Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council and assistant to the president for economic policy, and Todd Park, an assistant to the president and the CTO of the United States, wrote in an official response.

"Absent net neutrality, the Internet could turn into a high-priced private toll road that would be inaccessible to the next generation of visionaries," they continued. "The resulting decline in the development of advanced online apps and services would dampen demand for broadband and ultimately discourage investment in broadband infrastructure. An open Internet removes barriers to investment worldwide."

Sperling and Park added that Obama has publicly supported net neutrality, and more lightly suggested that reclassifying ISPs wasn't exactly the president's job.

"Chairman Wheeler has publicly pledged to use the full authority granted by Congress to maintain a robust, free and open Internet—a principle that this White House vigorously supports," they wrote.

Establishing the docket, the FCC added that parties may continue to submit formal or informal complaints regarding violations to the transparency rule, which "helps consumers make informed choices about their broadband service." Informal complaints may be filed on the FCC site, where instructions can also be found for filing a formal complaint.


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