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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

FCC Approves Net Neutrality! [article from]

The Federal Communications Commission has approved new regulations that will prohibit providers from limiting how their customers use the Internet at home.

The rules, passed by a 3-2 vote Tuesday, will be used to enforce "network neutrality," provisions that require Internet service providers to treat web traffic equally and not slow or block websites.

The new regulations apply mostly to "wireline" broadband content and not information from the web received via cellphones.

The FCC's three Democratic members voted yes, including FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who proposed the rules over a year ago. Both Republicans on the panel voted no.

After the vote, Genachowski said, "It is essential that the FCC fulfill its historic role as a cop on the beat to ensure the vitality of our communications networks and to empower and protect consumers of those networks."

The passage was a victory for the White House. In a statement, President Barack Obama congratulated the FCC and Genachowski and promised to continue to fight to make sure the "democratic spirit of the Internet remains intact."

Net neutrality was a major issue for Obama as candidate for president.

"Today's decision will help preserve the free and open nature of the Internet while encouraging innovation, protecting consumer choice, and defending free speech," the president said. "Throughout this process, parties on all sides of this issue – from consumer groups to technology companies to broadband providers – came together to make their voices heard. This decision is an important component of our overall strategy to advance American innovation, economic growth, and job creation."

The move is also sure to be hailed by consumer advocates who have called on the government to order providers to give equal treatment to all traffic flowing over their networks.

But The Washington Post pointed out that it's still unclear whether the FCC has the legal right to institute rules over Internet access. Earlier this year a federal appeals court said the agency overstepped its authority by sanctioning Comcast for blocking access to users of some peer-to-peer file-sharing applications.

Congressional Republicans promised Tuesday to try and reverse any efforts to govern web traffic, Politico reported.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) slammed the new order as an "unprecedented power grab by the unelected members" of the FCC. Hutchison, ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee, vowed to introduce a resolution of disapproval to condemn the vote.

"Fortunately, we'll have an opportunity in the new Congress to push back against new rules and regulations," said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

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