Broadband stimulus guidelines call for net neutrality

The Obama administration released grant guidelines for the government's $7.2 billion broadband stimulus package Wednesday, and the rules call for net neutrality provisions to be applied to grant winners. The stipulations may deter wireless companies wary of complying with the rules. 

Grant winners will have to follow the FCC's 2005 Internet Policy statement, which prohibits companies from deliberately blocking or slowing a competitor's Internet traffic. Grant winners must "not favor any lawful Internet applications and content over others," the rules state. FCC commissioner Michael Copps has said that those rules apply to wireless companies. The new FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, has not yet given his opinion on the issue. Public interest groups, including Free Press, applauded the net neutrality efforts.

Wireless trade group CTIA said it was still reviewing the guidelines and had no comment, according to the Wall Street Journal. However, given the group's previous comments on the matter, it's clear the inclusion of net neutrality provisions come as a blow.

In comments filed in April to both the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Rural Utilities Service, CTIA said that net neutrality rules "should be applied to broadband stimulus grantees within the context of its existing parameters, and not more broadly."

"Wireless networks are inherently different than the networks for which the [net neutrality] policy statement was developed," CTIA said. "The underlying network infrastructure, including spectrum, as well as the integration of the customer equipment, make wireless significantly different than other broadband networks."

For more:
- see this WSJ blog post
- see the broadband stimulus grant guidelines

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