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the federal communications commission (fcc)


V.19 No.19 | 5/13/2010

WWW

The FCC Changes How It Regulates the Entire Internet

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its plan to change how it regulates the entire Internet yesterday, attempting to balance a its charter, which states that the FCC should keep internet regulation to a minimum, with a desire to enforce net neutrality.

The new policy only affects broadband transmissions, meaning that the actual data online won't be regulated by the FCC. Internet service providers (ISPs) will be subject to telecommunications services regulation, which currently governs land-line telephones. However, the FCC's general counsel said that only six of the 48 provisions that govern telecommunications services might apply to broadband Internet – for example, the FCC won't have the power to regulate prices. These six provisions forbid ISPs from “unreasonable denials of service and other unjust and unreasonable practices,” a response to a dispute between the FCC and Comcast, where the FCC ordered Comcast to stop limiting data-heavy Bittorrent uploads. Other provisions allow the FCC to push forward on bringing universal broadband to the United States, require ISPs to keep private information obtained from their customers private, and make broadband service accessible to the disabled. While I barely understand what's going on, most major tech blogs have weighed in, and GigaOm has found a pair of videos that attempt to explain the ruling and the situation.

The reregulation came about after the FCC discovered that Comcast was delaying Bittorrent uploads and attempted to use its power to stop the interference. When a court ruled that the FCC didn't have the authority, rather than abide by the decision, the FCC got to work changing the rules. Of course, neither side is happy; ISPs say they're worried the FCC has overstepped its bounds, while net neutrality advocates say that the FCC didn't go far enough.

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