The Federal Communications Commission moved forward today on proposed Net Neutrality rules that would prevent Internet service providers from intentionally blocking or slowing web traffic.
In a notice of proposed rulemaking, the FCC invited public comment on six principles intended to "preserve and promote an open Internet."
"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," said Chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement. "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."
Telecom companies have strongly opposed new FCC regulations, claiming government intervention is unwarranted and would hurt investment.
Indeed, Sen. John McCain (R – Ariz.) introduced legislation today that would block the FCC from enacting the rules. “This government takeover of the Internet will stifle innovation, in turn slowing our economic turnaround and further depressing an already anemic job market,” according to a press release issued by McCain’s office announcing the Internet Freedom Act of 2009.
Genachowski argued that the FCC rules “can and must promote investment and innovation throughout the Internet ecosystem. I reject the notion that we must choose between open Internet rules and investment by service providers in their networks.”
Under the proposed rules, an Internet service provider would not be allowed to prevent any users from sending or receiving lawful content over the Internet or running lawful applications. Nor could users be prevented from connecting to and using lawful devices, provided they don’t harm the network. ISPs also are barred from depriving users of competition from other network and service providers.
Internet service providers would also have to treat lawful content, applications and services in a nondiscriminatory manner and disclose information about network management as “reasonably required” for users.
But providers would be able to address unwanted traffic, such as spam, and prevent illegal content such as child pornography
The five FCC commissioners were not unanimous in their support for the new initiative.
“I do not share the majority’s view that the Internet is showing breaks and cracks, nor do I believe that the government is the best tool to fix it,” said Commissioner Robert McDowell in a statement concurring in part and dissenting in part with the proposed rules. “I also disagree with the premise that the Commission has the legal authority to regulate Internet network management as proposed.”
Commissioner Meredith Baker also concurred and dissented in part, writing that “important questions are outstanding about our legal authority to regulate broadband Internet access services that we need to explore.”
The FCC has claimed it has the authority to regulate the Internet under the theory of “ancillary jurisdiction.” That theory is being challenged in a pending D.C. Circuit case brought against the FCC by Comcast.