As expected, the Federal Communications Commission passed new rules regarding Internet usage that would regulate web traffic and allow service providers to allow priority service:
The Federal Communications Commission approved the “Open Internet” order after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s plan got the support of fellow Democrats Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn.
The rules aim to strike a balance between the interests of Internet service providers, content companies and consumers, but some industry analysts think a court challenge is still likely.
At issue is whether regulators need to guarantee that all stakeholders continue to have reasonable access to the Internet, a principle often called “net neutrality,” or whether the Internet is best left to flourish unregulated.
The FCC’s ability to regulate the Internet has been in doubt since an appeals court in April said the agency lacked the authority to stop cable company Comcast Corp from blocking bandwidth-hogging applications.
Senior FCC officials have said they will invoke new legal arguments not employed in the Comcast case.
The two Republican commissioners at the agency opposed the latest rule-making effort, saying it was unnecessary and would stifle innovation. Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker told an FCC open meeting that they believed the rules would fail in court.
Over at Reason, Peter Suderman likens the new rules to the FCC voting itself as the “Judd Dredd” of the Internet:
The FCC’s move on net neutrality is not really about ideology. It’s about authority: He’s not so much protecting values as expanding the FCC’s regulatory reach. According to Genachowski’s summary remarks, the new rules call for a prohibition on “unreasonable discrimination” by Internet Service Providers—with the FCC’s regulators, natch, in charge of determining what counts as unreasonable. In theory, this avoids the pitfalls that come with strict rules. But in practice, it gives the FCC the power to unilaterally and arbitrarily decide which network management innovations and practices are acceptable—and which ones aren’t.
It’s the tech-sector bureaucrat’s equivalent of declaring, Judge Dredd style, “I am the law!” Indeed, Genachowski has said before—and reiterated today—that the rules will finally give the FCC the authority to play “cop on the beat” for the Internet.
Americans loudly demanded a more limited federal government this November, but the Obama Administration has dedicated itself to expanding centralized government planning. Today, unelected bureaucrats rammed through an internet takeover, even after Congress and courts warned them not to.
To keep the internet economy thriving, this decision must be reversed. Regulatory reform will be a top priority for Republicans in the next Congress, and I intend to prevent the FCC or any government agency from unilaterally burdening our recovering economy with baseless regulation. In order to provide the stability businesses need to grow, I will work with my fellow Senators to see passage of my FCC Act, which would ensure that the FCC can only use its rulemaking powers where there is clear evidence of a harmful market failure, as well as the REINS Act, which would add the accountability of a Congressional vote before any government agency’s proposed major regulations may be finalized.
To learn more about Net Neutrality, what it is and what it means to you, check out this informative video from Reason TV: