As soon as Congress passed the legislation, basically making service providers “common carriers”, companies like AT&T, USTelecom, CenturyLink and others have been fighting tooth and nail to delay the FCC from enacting and enforcing the newly enacted law. The affected firms filed a number of delaying motions but, it seems, as of this past Friday, to no avail.
Late on that day, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau chief Roger Sherman and Wireless Competition Bureau chief Julie Veach sent out an order dismissing said petitions. The order stated that additional protection of the Internet as we know it is crucial. The objecting groups do not want to be classified as “common carriers”, since they would then be treated as a utility, more or less subject to the same government rules as other utilities under the Telecommunications Act.
Interestingly, AT&T and the others did not object (at least, not in THIS petition) to the ‘no blocking legal content’, ‘no throttling’ and ‘no paid prioritization’ rules, but specifically zeroed in on the “common carriers” proviso. Though the former three rules mentioned above are known as the “bright light” rules, which would impact the way that the companies do business and have an effect on their bottom line.
I suspect that they don’t want to be perceived by the public as greedy and heavy-handed, though that’s exactly how they are perceived right now. Perhaps the theory is fight one battle at a time and other petitions can be fought out in court at a future time. Nonetheless, the FCC and governmental powers seems to have won this first skirmish. And FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is pretty confident that his plan simply will not lose. Even though the heavy hitters like Verizon and AT&T had blog posts denouncing the new rules almost as soon as they were announced.
According to Wheeler, the only reason that the 2010 Net Neutrality rules were overturned was that the FCC tried to impose Title II type rules on the companies without coming out and saying that they were Title II common carries. This time, that mistake has been rectified and any ambiguity has been removed.
This fight will continue, but many of us in the tech community believe that the government has gotten it right this time. It doesn’t matter if you’re left, right, Democrat or Republican. We may not all agree about what is good for the Net, but I believe that we all want our online freedoms protected.
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