FCC Chairman to Lay Out Net Neutrality Plan

By Cindy Waxer December 01, 2010

Federal regulators are gearing up to present “network neutrality” rules today that are just as likely to prohibit phone and cable companies from blocking Internet traffic as they are to ruffle the feathers of House Republicans.

In a speech today, Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, will outline a proposal that would prohibit broadband providers from blocking or degrading online traffic flowing over their networks. The plan, which is likely to be brought to a vote by year’s end, has pitted Internet giants against phone and cable titans.

Internet behemoths such as Google and Skype argue that regulations are needed to prevent phone and cable operators from blocking Internet phone calls, online video and other web services that compete with their primary lines of business. Phone and cable companies like AT&T and Verizon, on the other hand, argue that they need the flexibility to manage network traffic in order to prevent performance problems such as bandwidth constraints and hogged capacity.

In the past, the Obama administration has backed net neutrality, making it a top campaign pledge to the technology industry. In an interview broadcast on YouTube back in January, President Obama said, “We’re getting pushback, obviously, from some of the bigger carriers who would like to be able to charge more fees and extract more money from wealthier customers. But we think that runs counter to the whole spirit of openness that has made the Internet such a powerful engine for not only economic growth, but also for the generation of ideas and creativity.”

Genachowski’s proposal is expected to be less drastic than earlier incarnations and industry observers are hopeful that it will signal a compromise for cable companies and Internet companies alike. In fact, according to an advance copy of his remarks made available to reporters and published by the Associated Press, Genachowski argues that his plan would “culminate recent efforts to find common ground” and foster “rules of the road to preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet.”

Edited by Tammy Wolf

TechZone360 Contributing Editor

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