FCC has votes for open-Internet rules

By Reuters
Posted Dec. 20, 2010 at 5:44 p.m.

The Federal Communications Commission is poised to adopt Internet traffic rules on Tuesday that would ban the blocking of lawful content, but allow high-speed Internet providers to manage their networks, senior agency officials said.

Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn have come to an agreement to support the proposal laid out by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski early this month despite their concern about aspects of the plan, senior FCC officials said on Monday.

Copps wanted the FCC to reclassify Internet traffic under tougher rules applying to telephone service, while Clyburn has said she is uneasy about giving wireless Internet providers more freedom to manage their networks than wireline services.

“While I cannot vote wholeheartedly to approve the item, I will not block it by voting against it,” Copps said in a statement on Monday. “I instead plan to concur so that we may move forward.”

Clyburn said in a separate statement that the rules, “while not as strong as they could be, will nonetheless protect consumers as they explore, learn, and innovate online.”

Support from Copps and Clyburn would give Genachowski the votes he needs to overcome expected opposition from the agency’s two Republicans.

The FCC’s ability to regulate the Internet has been in doubt since an appeals court in April said the agency lacked the authority to stop Comcast Corp. from blocking bandwidth-hogging applications.

Court challenges are expected over this latest rule-making effort, although senior FCC officials have said they will invoke new legal arguments not employed in the Comcast case.

The “open” Internet order to be considered Tuesday at a public FCC meeting will give both landline and mobile broadband services the flexibility to “reasonably” manage their networks.

The order would institute a no-blocking policy for landline Internet providers that covers all lawful content, applications, services and devices, the senior officials said.

The rule for wireless carriers, reflecting limited bandwidth and more recent technology, only bans the blocking of access to Web sites, or competing voice and video applications.

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