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FCC votes for net neutrality rule-making process

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As expected, the FCC voted to move forward with a proposal to codify its four net neutrality principles and add non-discrimination and transparency rules to the regulations that will govern both wireless and wired broadband networks.

The commission voted 5-0 to begin the rule-making process. The next steps will likely involve months of debate now that the FCC is asked for comments on the proposal. Initial comments are due Jan. 14.

Hours later, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced legislation aimed at prohibiting the FCC from enacting rules that would regulate access to the Internet. The legislation, called "The Internet Freedom Act of 2009," aimed at keeping the Internet from being regulated by the government. "Keeping businesses free from oppressive regulations is the best stimulus for the current economy," he said.

The two Republican FCC commissioners, Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker, dissented in part on last week's vote, arguing that the commission should proceed with its eyes open to the unintended consequences of the new regulations. They said they were unsure that there was enough of a problem to warrant new regulations, and questioned whether the FCC had the authority to impose the new rules. The GOP commissioners' dissent essentially signals that they intend to move forward with the action, but disagree with the current language in the proposal.

As promised by Chairman Julius Genachowski, the proposed rules governing wireless networks took into account that wireless networks have different network architectures, market structures, patterns of consumer usage and regulatory history than wired networks. The draft rules will seek comment on how, in what time frames and to what extent the rules should apply to wireless.

Moreover, another points of debate will likely center on what "reasonable network management" means as it pertains to an operator's ability to manage network traffic. The draft rules say that such management includes practices that reduce or mitigate network congestion, address traffic that is unlawful, unwanted by users or deemed harmful. The commission staff also noted that nothing in the rules will prohibit service providers from delivering emergency communications.

Additionally, the notice seeks comment on how to define managed services, such as subscription video services, telemedicine or smart grids, and how the new policies should apply to them. The commission also is going to form a technical outreach group to discuss network management issues and all other issues that have technical ramifications.

For more:
- see this FierceWireless article
- see this release

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