Wednesday, October 21, 2009

FCC Adopts Draft Rules for Internet Openness

The FCC voted unanimously to adopt a draft set of rules to codify and supplement existing Internet openness principles while seeking public input on permanent regulations. Under the draft rules, a provider of broadband Internet access service may not:

1) prevent any of its users from sending or receiving the lawful content of the user's choice over the Internet;

2) prevent any of its users from running the lawful applications or using the lawful services of the user's choice;

3) prevent any of its users from connecting to and using on its network the user's choice of lawful devices that do not harm the network; or

4) deprive any of its users of the user's entitlement to competition among network providers, application providers, service providers, and content providers.

5) subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service must treat lawful content, applications, and services in a nondiscriminatory manner.

6) subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service must disclose such information concerning network management and other practices as is reasonably required for users and content, application, and service providers to enjoy the protections specified in this rulemaking.

These six principles would apply to all platforms for broadband Internet access, including mobile wireless broadband, while recognizing that different access platforms involve significantly different technologies, market structures, patterns of consumer usage, and regulatory history.

Reasonable network management is defined to include practices employed by a provider of broadband Internet access service such as:

  • to reduce or mitigate the effects of congestion on its network or to address quality of-service concerns;

  • to address traffic that is unwanted by users or harmful;

  • to prevent the transfer of unlawful content, such as child pornography; and

  • to prevent the unlawful transfer of content, such as to prevent copyright infringement.

The draft rules also permit other reasonable network management practices.

The FCC is seeking public comment on the need for rules concerning specialized or managed IP services, which might leverage broadband connections but be different from the public Internet. Such services could include voice and subscription video services, certain business services provided to enterprise customers, and
specialized applications like telemedicine, smart grid, or eLearning offerings.

The FCC also noted that nothing in its draft rules supersedes any obligation a broadband Internet access service provider may have -- or limits its ability -- to deliver emergency communications, or to address the needs of law enforcement, public safety, or national or homeland security authorities, consistent with applicable law.

"Given the potentially huge consequences of having the open Internet diminished through inaction, the time is now to move forward with consideration of fair and reasonable rules of the road, rules that would be enforceable and implemented on a case-by-case basis. Indeed, it would be a serious failure of responsibility not to consider such rules, for that would be gambling with the most important technological innovation of our time," stated FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.