America’s Federal Communications Commission gives net neutrality the thumbs up with latest proposals
Freedom of speech was winning today when America’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) revealed clear plans to safeguard online freedom of expression.
Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, an ‘independent’ agency of the US government, proposed new rules to preserve the Internet as an open platform for innovation and free expression. This proposal is rooted in long-standing regulatory principles, marketplace experience, and public input received over the last several months.
The debate has been raging for a number of years now, with the term ‘net neutrality’ coined along the way. This is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.
Wheeler said: “Originally, I believed that the FCC could assure Internet openness through a determination of ‘commercial reasonableness’ under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. While a recent court decision seemed to draw a roadmap for using this approach, I became concerned that this relatively new concept might, down the road, be interpreted to mean what is reasonable for commercial interests, not consumers.”
That, he explained, is why he is proposing that the FCC use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open Internet protections. Title II is a section of the USA Patriot Act, introduced following the September 11 terrorist attacks, and covers enhanced surveillance procedures.
“Using this authority, I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open Internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritisation, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. I propose to fully apply – for the first time ever – those bright-line rules to mobile broadband. My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.”
A statement from the FCC read: “An open Internet allows consumers to access the legal content and applications that they choose online, without interference from their broadband network provider. It fosters innovation and competition by ensuring that new products and services developed by entrepreneurs aren’t blocked or throttled by Internet service providers putting their own profits above the public interest.
“An open Internet allows free expression to blossom without fear of an Internet provider acting as a gatekeeper. And it gives innovators predictable rules of the road to deliver new products and services online.”
The FCC is expected to vote on Wheeler’s proposals on February 26.
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