A Breakdown of the FCC’s 400-page long Rules on Net Neutrality


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has finally published its net neutrality rules this morning, comprising 400 pages of text. It was accompanied by statements from all five commissioners.

We read it all so you don’t have to. Four hundred pages [PDF] of legalese and formal definitions of an “open internet” in America. It takes more than a few hours to go through, and unless you are a telco lawyer getting paid by the hour, it is not the most rewarding use of one’s time.

The rules were approved by the US watchdog at the end of February, but until today have remained secret. Here’s what we have learned from today’s document.

There’s an awful lot of justification

For the bulk of the “open internet order,” each page features more footnotes than core text. This is an effort by the FCC to do two things: first, make it legally watertight by demonstrating that each piece was developed from public comment through its processes; and two, show that the plan has been built by listening to people – a kind of public interest defense for the inevitable wave of criticism and lawsuits.

The end result of this for someone actually reading the order is weariness: 20 words where one would do, comes to mind. Yes, it is comprehensive and exhaustive – literally – but the Declaration of Independence, it is not.

The other side of things is that on occasion it feels worryingly like a sales pitch. As if the FCC is trying a little too hard to persuade you that it’s right.

The way the US government views broadband has changed

A lot of the argument, both legal and actual, around the net neutrality regulations has been built around how the law sees the provision of internet access. With this order, the FCC is quite explicit in that it now treats broadband packages totally unlike how it has done so for the past decade.

Broadband access now, in the FCC’s eyes, comprises two different and separable things: one, a telecommunications service; and two, “various ‘add-on’ applications, content, and services that generally are information services.”

This is the key distinction and change: broadband providers are providing two different things that can be viewed and legislated for separately. From this, all else flows. That may seem obvious to people, but legally it wasn’t the way of things until now.

The same rethinking “to reflect current technology” is used to explain why mobile broadband has now been brought under the net neutrality rules.

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SOURCE: Kieren McCarthy
The Register

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