Open Internet Order for Net Neutrality likely to pass at FCC hearing tomorrow

The net neutrality regulations known as the Open Internet Order are coming up for vote before the Federal Communications Commission tomorrow, and it is now believed the order will pass, based upon statements from FCC commissioner Michael Copps on Monday.

Copps was formerly the "swing vote" for the Open Internet Order, Commissioners Baker and McDowell are expected to vote against the order, while commissioners Clyburn and Genachowski are expected to vote in favor of it. Until recently, Copps was in favor of reclassifying the Internet as a Title II telecommunications service, but that position was denigrated not only by Chairman Genachowski, but also by former Commissioner Michael Powell who is considered the "founding father" of the regulation.

Today, Copps issued a statement which said he would be voting in favor of the Order.

"If vigilantly and vigorously implemented by the Commission --and if upheld by the courts-- it could represent an important milestone in the ongoing struggle to safeguard the awesome opportunity-creating power of the open Internet. While I cannot vote wholeheartedly to approve the item, I will not block it by voting against it. I instead plan to concur so that we may move forward. I do thank the Chairman for his engagement, and I owe a special debt of gratitude to Commissioner Mignon Clyburn for her thoughtful and creative work to improve this item," Copps said today.

"I appreciate the hard work of my colleagues, and I am especially grateful for the commitment and dedication of Commissioner Copps, who has worked many years on behalf of
consumers to ensure an open Internet," Commissioner Clyburn responded. "As a Commissioner whose task is to safeguard consumers and the public interest, I will
continue to watch the growth of the Internet and will applaud industry advances and milestones. I will also seek out and facilitate any collaboration between myself, my colleagues, corporate stakeholders, and public interest representatives, as there can be no better path forward than that
which is achieved through consensus."

The "nuts and bolts" of the order have not yet been made public, but that hasn't stopped those standing in opposition to the FCC's intervention from airing their concerns.

"The FCC has never before explicitly allowed discrimination on the Internet --but the draft Order takes a step backwards, merely stating that so-called 'paid prioritization' (the creation of a 'fast lane' for big corporations who can afford to pay for it) is cause for concern," Senator Al Franken (D,MN) wrote today. "It sure is --but that's exactly why the FCC should ban it. Instead, the draft Order would have the effect of actually relaxing restrictions on this kind of discrimination."

Free Press Managing Director Craig Aaron said, "This short-sighted decision is all too familiar to those who have watched the Obama administration and its appointees squander the opportunity for real change in favor of industry-written compromises that reward the biggest players from Wall Street to health care and now the Internet. There is overwhelming public support for real Net Neutrality, and this setback won't stop those fighting to save the Internet."

The most important outcome of tomorrow's open commission hearing will no doubt be the release of the full text of the Order. This will likely settle some of the dissenting voices, since it will reveal all of the unknown information and thus halt the fear that so often helps to crank up the rhetoric.

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