White House Leaves FTC To Decide Net Neutrality Laws

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

The FTC will decide how the Internet is governed after the White House said it already had the required powers

The White House says new legislation is not needed to settle the “net neutrality” rules, because the US regulator already has the required powers.

Effectively, the White House statement means that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the US communication regulator will make the final decision about the new rules governing how the Internet is governed, at least in the US that is.

Public Utility

“In terms of legislation, we don’t believe it’s necessary given that the FCC has the authorities that it needs under Title II,” a White House official told Reuters. “However, we always remain open to working with anyone who shares the president’s goal of fully preserving a free and open internet now and into the future.”

That statement comes after US President Barack Obama finally broke his silence and came out in favour of Internet neutrality last November.

516px-Network_neutrality_symbol_english.svgHe said that broadband should be regulated like a public utility, and he called for stricter rules to preserve the Internet’s “level playing field”, along with a legal reclassification of broadband services that would allow such rules to stand up in court.

Obama’s backing for net neutrality comes amid court challenges by telecommunications firms in the United States.

Legal Challenges

The FTC had passed Net Neutrality rules way back in 2011, which were designed to keep the Internet free and prevent ISPs from blocking each others’ business.

However in January 2014, a lawsuit by Verizon brought a ruling that the US telecoms regulator could not force ISPs to treat all traffic on equal terms – an outcome widely criticised by freedom of speech campaigners.

So the FTC proposed new regulations governing net neutrality in May 2014. That FCC proposal kept a provision that allowed American businesses to pay Internet service providers (ISPs) for faster content delivery.

The new rules triggered a lively debate by the US public, with users leaving four million online comments on the FCC website.

The FTC is currently working on a working on a compromise that it hopes could resolve the issue.

Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, the EU parliament last year approved plans to enshrine Net Neutrality in European law, but they have to be adopted by individual member states.

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