FCC Defends New Net Neutrality Rules, Releases Full Text

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Tom Wheeler

The agency released the full 400 page text of the new net neutrality rules and an accompanying fact sheet to counter what it calls myths with the facts

The new net neutrality regulations from the Federal Communications Commission is not utility style regulation, is not a form of price regulation, doesn't give the government control over Internet content and will not embolden authoritarian states to tighten their grip on the Internet, according to a summary released Thursday by the agency along with the first public look at the complete text of the new Open Internet rules.

"An Open Internet," the FCC says in a release accompanying the full text, "means consumers can go where they want, when they want. It means innovators can develop products and services without asking for permission. It means consumers will demand more and better broadband as they enjoy new Internet services, applications and content."

"This Order," adds the agency, "implements bright line rules to ban blocking, throttling and paid prioritization (or "fast lanes") and, for the first time, the rules fully apply to mobile."

The FCC under chairman Tom Wheeler passed the new rules Feb. 26.

Reaction was predictable, especially from opponents.

"One thing is for sure: the Commission's claim that it is not imposing price regulation is clearly false," said Lawrence Spiwak, president of the Phoenix Center in Washington. "As the D.C. Circuit made clear in Verizon, the agency's attempt at a 'non-discrimination' and 'no blocking' rule is plainly regulation at a price of 'zero.'"

Daniel Berninger, founder of "tech elders," restated opposition to the use of Title II regulation. His group includes Mark Cuban, Tim Draper, Dave Farber, George Gilder and Bob Metcalfe.

"The Order reveals FCC ambitions through what it leaves out as much as what it includes," writes Berninger." The FCC fails to include a limiting principle and places the entire Internet ecosystem within the reach of regulatory discretion."

Accompanying the release of the full text (which incorporates comments from the commissioners) was a release which the FCC was meant to "separate fact from fiction."

Here is an edited summary of the FCC's fact sheet:

Myth: This is utility-style regulation. There is no "utility-style" regulation. The Order bars the kinds of tariffing, rate regulation, unbundling requirements and administrative burdens that are the hallmarks of traditional utility regulation. No broadband provider will need to get the FCC's approval before offering any price, product or plan.

Myth: The FCC plans to set broadband rates and to regulate retail prices in response to consumer complaints.
 Fact: The Order doesn't regulate retail broadband rates.


Myth: This is a plan to regulate the Internet and let the government take over the Internet.
 Fact: The Order does not regulate the Internet. It applies to broadband providers – the companies that connect people's homes to the public Internet. It means consumers can go where they want, when they want and it means innovators can develop products and services without asking for permission.

Myth: This proposal means the FCC will get to decide which service plan you can choose.
 Fact: The Order doesn't limit consumers' choices or ban broadband data plans.


Myth: This will increase consumers' broadband bills and/or raise taxes. 
Fact: The Order doesn't impose new taxes or fees or otherwise increase prices.
 In fact, the Internet Tax Freedom Act currently bans state and local taxes on broadband access regardless of how the FCC classifies it.

Myth: This will lead to slower broadband speeds and reduced investment in broadband deployment.
Fact: The Order doesn't reduce broadband investment or slow broadband speeds.
 History proves that investment will not be affected. Title II and Section 706 support clear rules of the road, providing the certainty needed by innovators and investors, and the competitive choices and freedom demanded by consumers.

Myth: This will embolden authoritarian states to tighten their grip on the Internet.
 This Order is a strong statement that no one — government or corporation — should interfere with the user's right of free and open access to the Internet. In order to encourage other governments to establish policies to protect the free exchange of ideas on an open, unrestricted Internet, we must first protect those values at home.

Myth: The FCC plans to set broadband rates and to regulate retail prices in response to consumer complaints.
 Fact: The Order doesn't regulate retail broadband rates.
 Old-style telephone regulation required companies to file tariffs with the FCC and await regulatory review before they could bring new products to markets — such an approval process does not exist and is not permitted under this Order.

Much has been made of the Section 201(b) authority in Title II under which the Commission may hear complaints and respond to conduct that violates our Open Internet rules. The claim is made that it will be a back-door form of rate regulation. This exact same authority has existed for wireless voice service since 1993 and has never produced rate regulation.

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