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FCC Releases Full Neutrality Rules
Rules come with three major th...oh look, Santa!
by Karl Bode 06:26PM Thursday Dec 23 2010
Two days after the FCC voted 3-2 along partisan lines to approve new network neutrality rules, and just as the public and media are all busily packing for grandmas house, the FCC has released their full network neutrality rules (pdf) over at the FCC website. The rules come with three primary focuses: transparency (ensuring ISPs are clear about their network management practices); no blocking (prohibiting an outright blocking of legal content); and no discrimination (prohibiting any non-"reasonable" network management practices. In the FCC's own words:

Transparency. Fixed and mobile broadband providers must disclose the network management practices, performance characteristics, and terms and conditions of their broadband services;

No blocking. Fixed broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices; mobile broadband providers may not block lawful websites, or block applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services; and

No unreasonable discrimination. Fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.

You'd be hard pressed to find any ISP doing the first two after the public lashing Comcast went through in the media -- so they essentially ask ISPs to do things they're already doing voluntarily. The third rule remains particularly murky given the varying definitions of "reasonable," and won't be applied to wireless. It's that last one that will be the most contentious as a result, given that a carrier could, with a little creativity, easily portray anti-competitive behavior as simple, reasonable congestion countermeasures or pricing experimentation. The FCC's rules get only a little more specific here:
In evaluating unreasonable discrimination, the types of practices we would be concerned about include, but are not limited to, discrimination that harms an actual or potential competitor to the broadband provider (such as by degrading VoIP applications or services when the broadband provider offers telephone service), that harms end users (such as by inhibiting end users from accessing the content, applications, services, or devices of their choice), or that impairs free expression (such as by slowing traffic from a particular blog because the broadband provider disagrees with the blogger’s message).
There's 87 pages of rules to dig through, and analysis of the finer legal points of the effort will be ongoing for several weeks. Assuming there's no gaping loopholes (intentional or accidental), the FCC will still have to prove that they have the legal authority to enforce these rules, and the consistent will to enforce them as we ride the political tides.

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