FCC chairman proposes few net neutrality restrictions on wireless broadband networks

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's new net neutrality proposal for wireless and wired networks calls for light regulations on wireless carriers.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski introduces his net neutrality proposal in a speech in Washington.The chairman outlined the plan in a speech he gave in Washington this week, and said the commission will vote on the plan Dec. 21. Under the plan, mobile operators would be prohibited from blocking services like Google Voice and Skype that compete with their own voice and video offerings. Wireless operators, however, won't face the same restrictions as their wired counterparts when it comes to blocking Web traffic and other applications.

"The record in our proceeding reflects both the importance of openness principles to mobile broadband, and the appropriateness of recognizing differences between fixed and mobile broadband," Genachowski said in his speech. "This is not a new point, but one that I've made consistently since the beginning of this proceeding. For example, mobile broadband is at an earlier stage of development than fixed broadband, and is evolving rapidly."

The proposal for mobile networks includes transparency requirements on network management policies and a basic "no-blocking" rule. Genachowski said the FCC would closely monitor the development of mobile broadband and "be prepared to step in to further address anti-competitive or anti-consumer conduct as appropriate."

The proposal would bar wired broadband providers from blocking lawful applications and allow them to offer "specialized services" apart from the open Internet. Companies would have to justify these services though, and show that their use does not detract from investment in the open Internet.

In addition, the plan does not reclassify broadband under Title II of the Telecommunication Act as a common-carrier service. The commission had voted to move forward with the reclassification back in June, but the move has been met with resistance from wired and wireless operators. That reclassification proposal stemmed from a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in April that said the FCC overstepped its statutory authority when it cited Comcast in 2008 for interfering with subscribers' access to peer-to-peer file sharing services. The ruling, Comcast v. FCC, said the FCC could not rely on its "ancillary jurisdiction" under Title I of the Telecommunications Act to regulate how Comcast managed its network.

For more:
- see this FierceWireless article

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