Carriers have mixed reactions to FCC's net neutrality rules

Reaction to the FCC's net neutrality rules, which were passed Tuesday by a 3-2 vote, came pouring in from all corners of the technology industry. Wireless carriers offered mixed assessments of the order, which largely went easy on wireless networks.

Verizon (NYSE:VZ) was the harshest critic of the rules. In its response, Verizon said that it is "the only major ISP that has publicly embraced openness obligations for both its wireline and wireless broadband Internet access services," which it said is positive for its customers and business. 

"While it will take some time for us to analyze the FCC's rules and the order once they are released, the FCC's decision apparently reaches far beyond the net neutrality rules it announced today," Tom Tauke, Verizon's executive vice president of public affairs, said in a statement. "Based on today's announcement, the FCC appears to assert broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband wireline and wireless networks and the Internet itself. This assertion of authority without solid statutory underpinnings will yield continued uncertainty for industry, innovators, and investors. In the long run, that is harmful to consumers and the nation."

Verizon is considering filing a lawsuit against the rules, pending a detailed review of them, according to a report in the National Journal, which cited unnamed sources. The report cautioned that no final decision has been made. A Verizon spokesman, Edward McFadden, declined to comment.

Under the rules, wireless operators will be barred from blocking lawful content and applications, as well as services like Google Voice and Skype that compete with their own voice and video offerings, but will not face the same restrictions wired operators will on blocking Web traffic and other applications. Wireless carriers also will be required to disclose their network management policies.

Critics of the rules argued that the FCC does not have the legal authority to enforce them, and that the rules will stifle investment in broadband networks.

AT&T (NYSE:T), which has been a consistently vocal critic of net neutrality, expressed its displeasure with the rules. AT&T said there is an "utter absence of any evidence that abuses are occurring in the Internet market."

"In this circumstance, which is not ideal, our overarching concern is to bring market certainty so that investment and job creation can go forward, while ensuring that we can still meet the expectations of our customers," Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior executive vice president of legislative and external affairs, said in a statement. "Though a final view must await a careful reading of the FCC's order, we believe the chairman's compromise can provide this certainty while taking steps to preserve flexibility for investment and innovation."

Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) was more upbeat, and called the plan "a fair and balanced approach" to a difficult issue. "Sprint commends the FCC for the careful and deliberate approach it has taken on this issue," Vonya McCann, Sprint's senior vice president of government affairs, said in a statement. "It is an important next step in ensuring the freedom and openness of the Internet, while also recognizing the differences between fixed and mobile networks and the importance of providing all broadband providers with the flexibility to manage their networks."

T-Mobile USA, for its part, was mainly neutral. "We will have to review the FCC decision carefully before commenting on the substance, but we do hope by adopting this item it is now possible for the FCC to turn to the priorities of its national broadband plan, including acting on its pro-competitive data roaming proposal and making more spectrum available to support the continued deployment of advanced mobile broadband  services so important to economy," Tom Sugrue, T-Mobile's vice president of government affairs, said in a statement.

One observer who was not neutral was Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) co-founder Steve Wozniak, who was at the FCC meeting Tuesday and said the rules don't go far enough. "I just decided to come here because I was emotionally attached," he said after the vote. "This is a very significant, important issue--Internet freedom--and I don't think they went far enough."

For more:
- see this Verizon public policy blog post
- see this AT&T public policy blog post
- see this Sprint statement
- see this Bloomberg article

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