FCC advances net neutrality rules for wireless carriers

Today, the Federal Communications Commission moved forward with the hotly debated Net Neutrality policy revision, and opened the floor for public comment on the updated framework for a "free and open Internet" based on the "Four Freedoms" laid down in 2005 by former FCC Commissioner Michael Powell.

"The goal is and must remain without compromise preserving a free and open Internet," Commissioner Julius Genachowski said this morning.  "Any rules we adopt must preserve our freedom to connect, to communicate, and to create that is the wonder of the open Internet.  Each and every user of the Internet must have access to an unlimited online universe of ideas and commerce.  Internet users should always have the final say about their online experience, whether it's the software, applications or services they choose, or the networks and hardware they use to connect to the Internet."

Genachowski and two other commissioners, a majority of the 5-member board, approved the measures to work on the new framework, which will be open for public comment until January 14, and be brought to final vote by some time next summer.

The framework would let Access providers engage in "reasonable network management," but under the condition that they:

1.) do not block users from sending/receiving legal content.

2.) do not block legal apps from being installed on users' devices.

3.) do not block certain legal devices from accessing the network.

4.) cannot deprive users of entitlement to competing networks and services.

5.) cannot discriminate content, apps or services.

6.) must disclose all network management practices.

Despite the aggressive lobby from wireless providers such as AT&T and Verizon, the Commission says these rules will apply not only to cable and telecom broadband providers, but to wireless broadband as well. A major interest of this inquiry, therefore, is to find out exactly how these principles should apply to wireless and mobile broadband.

"Openness is essential for the Internet however it's accessed.  It doesn't make sense to have one Internet when your laptop is plugged into a wall and another when accessing the Internet through a wireless modem," Genachowski said this morning. "At the same time, wireless networks are different from wired networks.  Given fundamental differences in technology, how, when and to what extent open Internet rules should apply to different access platforms, particularly mobile broadband, will undoubtedly vary.  This is an important issue on which the Notice seeks to develop a full and informed record."

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