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Posted at 7:30 PM ET, 12/23/2010

FCC releases its order on net neutrality

By Cecilia Kang

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday afternoon released the text of its net neutrality order.

We're still poring over the document, and on a first read there are no big surprises. Rules that prohibit the blocking or discrimination of traffic apply to fixed-wire networks. Wireless networks aren't covered as strongly.

But one area getting special attention is the idea of paid prioritization and whether the FCC would allow broadband service providers to charge Web firms more for special fast lanes on the Internet.

Democratic Commissioner Michael J. Copps had expressed concerns about paid prioritization, saying that the practice could leave only the wealthiest and largest Web firms able to afford that kind of service. Meanwhile, he said consumers could be hurt by having fewer innovative products available from start-ups, which would not have the resources needed to pay for higher delivery speeds.

Telecom attorneys said the rules would make that practice difficult, pointing to this section of the order issued Thursday:

In light of each of these concerns, as a general matter, it is unlikely that pay for priority would satisfy the “no unreasonable discrimination” standard. The practice of a broadband Internet access service provider prioritizing its own content, applications, or services, or those of its affiliates, would raise the same significant concerns and would be subject to the same standards and considerations in evaluating reasonableness as third-party pay-for-priority arrangements.

The language on this section was intensely debated among commissioners and the chairman's office. And according to sources familiar with the matter, discussions between Copps' office and the chairman's office led to stronger language that would put such practices under their standard for what passes muster for reasonable network management.

Amy Mushawar, a telecom and tech attorney at Reed Smith said the FCC's view on the practice is "problematic for fixed ISPs and signals to the industry that payment for priority traffic deals will be highly suspect."

Markham Erickson, a telecom attorney who represents Internet firms, said: "The language provides enforcement guidance that paid priority is unlikey to satisfy the test. That is helpful for enforcement, and it also imposes marketplace discipline on teh network operators." T

Some legal experts said non-discrimination standards are too loosely defined and may provide a loophole that allows ISPs to offer different prices for faster and slower lanes.

What's your read?

By Cecilia Kang  | December 23, 2010; 7:30 PM ET
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Posted by: Garak | December 24, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

As a residential customer I can only buy internet service from two sources, a cable company or a telephone company. Try getting internet only service from them and see the price go up. If we had competition from a pure internet service provider, the net neutrality might not be required. Time for an internet debundling act like Telecom reform of 96.

Posted by: Ohreally3 | December 24, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

While the plan shows–in painful detail–why the public needs real net neutrality, it fails on the backend. Internet users will be worse off because of it. Activists are not wrong when they say that this Order has been unduly influenced by corporate lobbyists. All one has to do is read it to see that is the case. We should all be disappointed, and we should all ask for better protections. Otherwise, the Internet as we know it will no longer exist.

Read more:

Posted by: mlschafer | December 24, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

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