The US Federal Communications Commission has adopted new rules that will govern how Internet providers treat Web traffic and services. The first enforceable Net neutrality rules, led by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, will prohibit Internet service providers from blocking access to lawful content and websites. The rules passed with three votes against two, and now have to go before Congress for final approval.
The move marks the government's biggest move yet in a long debate between companies providing access to the Web and consumer groups advocating for an open Internet. Unfortunately, it appears that the only group that seems to be especially happy about the proposed rules is the one consisting of telecom companies. Many conservatives see any net neutrality ruling as a federal overreach and liberals denounce this particular set of rules as inadequate. The rules reserve the possibility for phone companies to charge more for certain kinds of high-speed traffic: "paid prioritization." Wireless carriers could thus block or charge more for other types of Internet applications, such as video or social networking services.
"As we stand here now, the freedom and openness of the Internet are unprotected," Genachowski said in a statement prior to the vote. "No rules on the books to protect basic Internet values. No process for monitoring Internet openness as technology and business models evolve. No recourse for innovators, consumers, or speakers harmed by improper practices. And no predictability for Internet service providers, so that they can effectively manage and invest in broadband networks. That will change once we vote to approve this strong and balanced order." You can read his full speech below.