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Waters: FCC's Net Neutrality Rules Could Harm Consumers

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) took aim at the FCC's network-neutrality rules Wednesday in a speech to a Computer and Communications Industry Association meeting in Washington. An early supporter of the net-neutrality rule initiative, she was less sanguine on the resulting compromise rules.

The FCC's new network-neutrality rules are insufficient and could harm consumers, she told the group, opining about the resulting rules arrived under "the immense pressure exerted on the FCC from industry stakeholders and some Members of Congress."

The rules, approved in December but which will not go into effect for several more months, were the product of negotiations with industry stakeholders and a stand-down from initial proposals by the chairman to classify Internet access under some Title II common carrier regs.

Among the compromises was applying only some of the regs--transparency and non-blocking--to wireless broadband. The FCC said there are legitimate network management and architecture differences that justified the disparate treatment, but Waters was, and is, not convinced.

"Unfortunately, in the year since the FCC set an agenda to adopt net neutrality rules, confusion and misinformation overshadowed the agency's original intent," she said, according to a prepared copy of her remarks. "Since the Commission's net neutrality rules exempt mobile wireless companies, we now have a dual-track regulatory framework where consumers who access the Internet on mobile wireless devices receive less protection than those who utilize wire-line service providers."

She said she also remained concerned about the impact of that different treatment on the minorities that are disproportionate users of wireless Internet.

"According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project's Mobile Access 2010 report," she said, "minority Americans lead the way when it comes to mobile access--especially mobile access using handheld devices," and currently, "two-thirds of African-Americans and [English-speaking] Latinos are wireless internet users." Under the FCC's current rules, these groups would have no protection.