FCC chairman proposes Net neutrality rules

Julius Genachowski says an agency panel's vote could formalize current policies that require Internet providers to treat all Web traffic equally.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all CNNMoney.com RSS FEEDS (close)
By Julianne Pepitone, CNNMoney.com staff reporter

16 portraits: The players of tech
These tech-world luminaries - photographed during our recent Brainstorm Tech conference - aren't just changing the game; they've defined it. Photographs by Robyn Twomey.
Obama: 200 days in office
Snapshots of the economy after 200 days of the Obama administration.
Bailout road trip! Big 3 drive to Washington
Obama's economic team is pushing through Congress the most expensive emergency spending package in the nation's history. And that's just the start.
How are you doing financially compared to the start of the year?
  • Better
  • Worse
  • About the same

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission outlined rules on Monday that would prohibit Internet providers from selectively blocking Web content and applications.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said his proposal would formalize the concept of "Net neutrality." On Monday he added two tenets to an existing set of four industry guidelines that have been recommended by the agency since 2005.

An FCC panel will vote on whether to turn these guidelines into official commission rules sometime in October.

"This is not about government regulation of the Internet," Genachowski said. "It's about fair rules of the road for companies that control access to the Internet."

The principle of Net neutrality dictates that all Web traffic should be treated equally by Internet access providers, and has been a source of contention since the Internet's inception decades ago. So far, the Web has been largely self-regulated.

What's at stake

The Net neutrality debate pits large Internet providers like AT&T (T, Fortune 500) and Comcast (CCW) against content and application providers like Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) and Skype that rely on those connections to deliver their Web pages and programs to consumers.

At issue is the fact that data-heavy applications, like a video from YouTube for instance, can clog and slow down Internet connections, disrupting service for customers and costing providers money.

Internet providers argue that they should be free to block or manage content that taxes their networks, unhindered by any regulation, while content providers like Google say that selective blocking is unfair and stymies innovation.

"Right now [Genachowski] is taking the middle of the road, but that will be tough once they try to issue specific rules," said Gartner Research analyst Alex Winogradoff. "It all sounds good, but until we see the rules we won't know how it will affect the marketplace," he added. "My concern is that the devil is in the details."

The FCC walks a fine line, Winogradoff said, because providers could challenge either overly specific or overly vague rules in court.

In Monday's speech to the Washington-based think tank The Brookings Institution, Genachowski cited the open-system design of the Internet as the main driver behind the way it has revolutionized the world.

"The Internet's creators didn't want the network architecture -- or any single entity to pick winners and losers," Genachowski said. "Because it might pick the wrong ones."

The three Democrats on the FCC panel have said they support net neutrality, and they represent a majority of the five members. Republicans have mostly opposed Net neutrality rules, arguing that Internet self-regulation has worked well and that the FCC doesn't need to become involved.

If the FCC passes Genachowski's proposal, it will then turn the following six principles into official commission rules.

1. Accessing content. The first rule states that consumers should not be limited in the content they choose to view online, as long as it's legal.

2. Using applications. Internet users should be able to run any application they want as long as they don't exceed service plan limitations or harm the provider's network.

3. Attaching personal devices. Consumers should be permitted to connect products they buy to their Internet connection, as long as the devices operate within the service plan and do not harm the network or enable theft of service.

4. Obtaining service plan information. Customers should be able to easily review their options when buying Internet service plans and learn about how those plans protect against spyware and other invasions of privacy.

5. New rule: Non-discrimination. Internet providers would be prohibited from selectively blocking or slowing Web content or applications.

6. New rule: Transparency. Providers would be required to make their network management practices clear and available to consumers. To top of page

They're hiring!These Fortune 100 employers have at least 350 openings each. What are they looking for in a new hire? More
If the Fortune 500 were a country...It would be the world's second-biggest economy. See how big companies' sales stack up against GDP over the past decade. More
Sponsored By:
More Galleries
10 of the most luxurious airline amenity kits When it comes to in-flight pampering, the amenity kits offered by these 10 airlines are the ultimate in luxury More
7 startups that want to improve your mental health From a text therapy platform to apps that push you reminders to breathe, these self-care startups offer help on a daily basis or in times of need. More
5 radical technologies that will change how you get to work From Uber's flying cars to the Hyperloop, these are some of the neatest transportation concepts in the works today. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: √ā¬© 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices √ā¬© S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.