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Net Neutrality Fans Pan FCC Order

The FCC came under fire from some network neutrality proponents, despite, or perhaps because of, the news that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had mustered the three votes necessary to expand and codity network neutrality rules for the first time, but in a form it appeared industry could live with.

The FCC will not ban paid prioritization, but will presume it violates its new regs, and will clarify that the definition of broadband Internet access service includes business, schools and libraries. According to sources, while the rules will only apply some of the new net regs to wireless broadband, it will promise to review that decision within two years.

Media Access Project SVP and Policy Director Andrew Schwartzman said it could not support the "watered-down, loophole-ridden option that the FCC appears to have chosen." Schwatrzman said that only applying some rules to wireless was "especially troublesome" because "wireless services provide an on ramp to the Internet for many of the nation's poor and minority citizens."

"By creating a different set of rules for wireless broadband, the decision creates a major regulatory loophole - one that, in the long-term, will prove detrimental to the innovation and openness which drives the American economy," said OpenMic.

Public Knowledge said it was "disappointed" with the news that Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn had agreed to vote for the chairman's proposal, or at least not to vote against it. Both also had concerns about applying different standards to wireless and wired broadband. "The actions by the Federal Communications Commission fall far short of what they could have been," said PK President Gigi Sohn. "Instead of a rule that would protect everyone, from consumers to applications developers from predatory practices of telephone and cable companies, the Commission settled for much less. Instead of strong, firm rules providing clear protections, the Commission, created a vague and shifting landscape open to interpretation. Consumers deserved better."

"FCC set to move forward with fake net neutrality," Free Press headlined its response. ""We are deeply disappointed
that this Commission appears to be moving forward with deeply flawed rules that don't live up to the promises of the president or the FCC chairman to protect the free and open Internet," said Free Press Managing director Craig Aaron.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee pulled no punches. "Internet users across America will have lost a hero if Commissioner Copps caves to pressure from big business and supports FCC Chairman Genachowski's fake Net Neutrality rules...There's no such thing as half a First Amendment, and there's no such thing as half of Net Neutrality. If approved, Genachowski's industry-written rules would be a historic mistake: For the first time, the FCC would give its stamp of approval to discrimination online. With a yes vote, Copps would join Genachowski on the wrong side of history."

Copps made it clear in his statement Monday announcing that he would not oppose the chairman that he was not pleased with the order. He plans to concur in the decision, rather than approve it. "The item we will vote on tomorrow is not the one I would have crafted.  But I believe we have been able to make the current iteration better than what was originally circulated," he said. "While I cannot vote wholeheartedly to approve the item, I will not block it by voting against it. I instead plan to concur so that we may move forward."

Forward may only be until it is taken to court, though one ISP source said there was nothing in the order that would
be a deal-breaker with the industry stakeholders that signed on to the original draft, if reluctantly.

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.