Update: Story updated with results from the 12/21 FCC Open Meeting

Two senior FCC officials this afternoon told reporters that the latest version of Net Neutrality guidelines has the support of all three Democratic FCC commissioners. Republican commissioners Meredith Attwell Baker and Robert McDowell are expected to oppose the long debated guidelines.

With the support of Mignon Clyburn, Michael Copps, and Chairman Julius Genachowski, those guidelines would have sufficient support to be adopted at tomorrow’s FCC meeting. According to the FCC officials, the guidelines contain three high-level rules.

  • One, they said, is “robust transparency”—a requirement for fixed and mobile operators to disclose information about network management policies to consumers, content providers and device manufacturers.
  • Traffic blocking also will be prohibited, the officials said, adding that the requirement will take different forms for mobile and landline networks. On the landline side, one of the officials said, the guidelines will prohibit “blocking of lawful content, services or devices.” On the mobile side, the guidelines will “prohibit blocking of access to websites or applications that compete with the broadband provider’s voice or video telephony, subject to reasonable network management,” the official said.
  • The third requirement will prevent “unreasonable traffic discrimination” and is the one that will likely draw the most opposition from service providers. “Paid prioritization is a practice that would get evaluated under the ‘no unreasonable discrimination’ standard,” one of the officials said. “Under that standard, we think it’s unlikely to be [permitted]. . . . The order explains our reasons for concern about paid-for prioritization. The possibility that it might some day be a service that was appropriate under that standard is left open but it’s a very high bar.”

The FCC officials also said they do not expect the Net Neutrality guidelines to be available tomorrow because several days will be required for dissenters—presumably the two Republican commissioners—to pen their concerns and for supporters to respond to the dissenters’ comments. The officials added, however, that some excerpts of the guidelines as well as the major rules will be released tomorrow.

Update: As predicted by two senior FCC officials, who briefed reporters late yesterday, the FCC today adopted Net Neutrality guidelines containing three high-level rules aimed at ensuring transparency, preventing blocking and prohibiting unreasonable discrimination. Also as predicted, the guidelines passed by a three-to-two vote, with the three Democratic commissioners, including FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski supporting the guidelines and the two Republican commissioners dissenting.

Genachowski also reiterated the idea that the guidelines are intended to prevent service providers from offering paid-for prioritization under the ban on unreasonable discrimination.  “We are making clear that we are not approving so-called ‘pay for priority’ arrangement involving fast lanes for some companies but not others,” Genachowski said at the FCC meeting today.

Republican Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Atwell Baker complained that they were not given the final draft of the new guidelines, which they said included extensive modifications, until late last night. Baker said that was “inexcusable,” particularly considering Genachowski’s emphasis on transparency.

As the FCC officials predicted, the general public still has not seen the guidelines, which likely will not be available in their final form for a few days—although a high-level summary is expected to be available at www.fcc.gov later today.

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4 thoughts on “FCC Net Neutrality Guidelines Preview

  1. Is it just me that looks at this debate and thinks:

    1) Seems like no one is happy with outcome, so it's a no win, lose-lose proposition, which increasingly seems like most policy decisions fall into this category.

    2) Sincerely hope we can move on and have less chatter about this and all of the extreme arguments that it engenders. Aren't there more fun/interesting things to talk/argue about 🙂

  2. @publius – 1934
    The communications act of 1934 is pretty unambiguously broad:
    SEC. 1. For the purpose of regulating interstate and foreign commerce in communication by wire and radio so as to make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States a rapid, efficient, Nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges, for the purpose of the national defense, and for the purpose of securing a more effective execution of this policy by centralizing authority heretofore granted by law to several agencies and by granting additional authority with respect to interstate and foreign commerce in wire and radio communication, there is hereby created a commission to be known as the “Federal Communications Commission”, which shall be constituted as hereinafter provided, and which shall execute and enforce the provisions of this Act.

    SEC. 3. For the purposes of this Act, unless the context otherwise requires-

    (a) “Wire communication” or “communication by wire” means the transmission of writing, signs, signals, pictures, and sounds of all kinds by aid of wire, cable, or other like connection between the points of origin and reception of such transmission, including all instrumentalities, facilities, apparatus, and services (among other things, the receipt, forwarding, and delivery of communications) incidental to such transmission.

    (b) “Radio communication” or “communication by radio” means the transmission by radio of writing, signs, signals, pictures, and sounds of all kinds, including all instrumentalities, facilities, apparatus, and services (among other things, the receipt, forwarding, and delivery of communications) incidental to such transmission.

  3. What happened today doesn't really matter because its all going to end up in court anyway and fought over for the next few years. I mean the past ten and the next ten years are the time to be telecom lawyers.

    A conspiracy believer would think that all of this stuff is a bunch of telecom lawyers creating more work for themselves and their law school buddies. I'm just saying.

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