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FCC Will Approve Neutrality Rules Tomorrow
Copps: These rules stink and may be unenforceable. I'm in!
by Karl Bode 06:13PM Monday Dec 20 2010
Though consumers still haven't seen them, every indication is that the FCC will pass Genachowski's planned network neutrality rules when the agency votes on them tomorrow. If the rules lacked votes it would have been pulled by now, and a statement by Commissioner Michael Copps unsurprisingly indicates the Democrat has gotten minor changes implemented that make him comfortable enough to vote yes. With Genachowski and Clyburn to also vote yes, it means we'll see the usual 3-2 partisan split. In a statement, Copps insists that while the rules aren't the ones he'd prefer, and may not even be enforceable or enforced, he's going to vote yes on them anyway:
I have been fighting for nearly a decade to make sure the Internet doesn't travel down the same road of special interest consolidation and gate-keeper control that other media and telecommunications industries — radio, television, film and cable — have traveled. What an historic tragedy it would be to let that fate befall the dynamism of the Internet. The item we will vote on tomorrow is not the one I would have crafted. But I believe we have been able to make the current iteration better than what was originally circulated. If vigilantly and vigorously implemented by the Commission — and if upheld by the courts — it could represent an important milestone in the ongoing struggle to safeguard the awesome opportunity-creating power of the open Internet.
Those are some very large caveats, since a consistently "vigilant," pro-consumer FCC is no sure thing, nor is the FCC's legal authority on this issue since Genachowski decided against partially reclassifying broadband ISPs as common carriers under the Communications Act. A little pro-consumer saber rattling followed by Copps voting for bad rules is kind of what he does professionally. As such, his eventual approval is what most people predicted, as is a 3-2 partisan vote. The question now is just how paper thin the final rules will be and whether or not they'll extend to wireless networks -- something AT&T and Verizon fought violently against. Oh, and whether the press will notice just how empty they are.

AT&T had the lion's share of input into these final rules, so if you're taking bets on what the final rules will look like, expect potentially unenforceable loophole-riddled ones. You may see some rules focused on requiring transparency in network management, but it seems unlikely the rules will require ISPs to do anything they weren't already doing voluntarily (ex: blocking websites outright). In other words, expect empty provisions with a coat of consumer protection paint and a lot of partisan yelling on both sides that may or may not be tethered to factuality.

Update The FCC this afternoon told the press they will not be releasing the rules to the public tomorrow alongside the vote, but will instead be holding on to "tweak" them for several days. In other words, the agency will get to bask in the glory of approving neutrality rules tomorrow, while nobody will actually get to see what got approved until right before the holidays -- at which point they'll be too snookered on egg nog to care.

Update 2: The FCC website now has links to the FCC's press release (which contains a small portion of the order) and statements from all the Commissioners.

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reply to Karl Bode

Re: And Sen Al Franken attacks proposed rules as Too easy

said by Karl Bode:

Your Google news links are welcome but not particularly useful for genuine context.

And you are going to lecture someone about posting out of context. I mean no disrespect. I visit daily and read every one of your posts, but many of them are written in a context that is only intended to generate traffic and doesn't disclose the truth or show us the whole picture.