FCC to vote on net neutrality this month

The Federal Communications Commission will today announce a proposal to introduce rules by the end of the year that would guarantee net neutrality, barring service providers from offering higher speed connections to some customers.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski says he’s sent colleagues ‘draft rules of the road’ for adoption at a meeting on 21st December.

The proposed rules stop short of giving the FCC the power to govern broadband internet under the same powers used to govern telephone service. They would give providers the flexibility to deal with congestion or harmful traffic, and allows them to offer ‘specialised service’ to selected customers.

But they would prohibit service providers from offering the ‘fast lane’ they’ve been lobbying for, and would prevent both fixed-wire and wireless providers from blocking lawful content.

The move has pleased campaigners.

“We commend the Federal Communications Commission for tentatively putting open Internet rules on the agenda for the December 21 Commission meeting and for, we expect, circulating a draft order.  As Comcast’s recent actions have shown, such rules are urgently needed,” says Gigi B Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge.

“Public Knowledge looks forward to working with the Commission to strengthen the order so that consumers and the vitality of the Internet are protected.”

The FCC is also aiming to deal with so-called ‘spectrum crunch’, about which chairman Julius Genachowski has been warning for some time, via an auction.

“The spectrum crunch threatens to create millions of dissatisfied consumers, who – if we don’t tackle this challenge – will be forced to choose between poor service and higher prices,” he says.

He says the new policies will make for more efficient and flexible use of spectrum and bring market forces to bear in bands of spectrum where they currently aren’t given the opportunity to work.   

“ecause of how fast our global competitors are moving, it’s essential that we move rapidly,” says Genachowski.

“We can’t afford to fall behind, and that is why today, we take this important step to begin the process of freeing up a significant amount of broadcast TV spectrum for mobile broadband.”