FCC fixes new rules for Net neutrality

MUMBAI: The new internet access "net neutrality" rules passed by Federal Communications Commission prevent network operators from blocking or interfering with online content they send into American homes.

Internet activists complained that the regulations were unnecessary.

Also, the 3-to-2 vote by commissioners raised serious questions as to whether the government should really regulate the Internet.

The new rules prohibit broadband companies from secretly blocking Internet services and expects them to keep their operational details open to public.

The regulations bar service providers from hindering any legal online content and also prevents from engaging in "unreasonable discrimination‘‘ which can lead to some Internet content being given approving treatment, including faster download speeds.

The new rules encompass both landline Internet services and the wireless data networks provided by cell phone companies. However, the regulations are less severe towards wireless services because they have less data carrying capacity when compared to landline services.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said the regulations "would preserve basic Internet values. For the first time, we‘ll have enforceable rules of the road to preserve Internet freedom and openness".

Some Net neutrality supporters were skeptical towards the new regulations, "For the first time in history, the US government approved corporate censorship of the Internet, putting the future of online free speech at risk,‘‘ the advocacy group Progressive Change Campaign Committee said in a statement.

A lobbying group funded by major broadband providers, which opposes Net neutrality, denounced the ruling. "The FCC is unilaterally trying to change the Internet from being competition-driven to being regulation-driven . . . with no fact-based justification for unprecedented Internet intervention,‘‘ said chairman Scott Cleland.

One of the country‘s largest broadband provider Verizon Communications issued a scornful response of its own. "This assertion of authority without solid statutory underpinnings will yield continued uncertainty for industry, innovators, and investors,‘‘ said Verizon executive vice president of public affairs Tom Tauke in a statement.

GOP Commissioner Robert McDowell also called the vote as "one of the darkest days in recent FCC history,‘‘ and disputed that the commission doesn‘t have any lawful authority to force the rules on Internet companies.

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