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FCC won't appeal Verizon net neutrality ruling

Opts instead for a softly softly approach
Thu Feb 20 2014, 14:53
Federal Communications Commission emblem

AMERICAN TELECOMMUNICATIONS REGULATOR the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has outlined its plans to rescue net neutrality rules in the wake of the Verizon decision that saw a federal appellate court rule that the FCC had no authority to prevent broadband internet providers from prioritising services.

Clarifying that it has no intention to appeal the ruling, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler released a statement explaining that the commission intends to use its authority to create new regulations instead.

The statement said, "Preserving the internet as an open platform for innovation and expression while providing certainty and predictability in the marketplace is an important responsibility of this agency."

What this boils down to is reworking the existing regulations to enforce them on a case by case basis. In other words, sitting down with offenders to sort it out.

As a carrot to entice carriers to toe the line, the FCC still has the power to redefine ISPs as "common carriers", which would reinstate its authority to enforce its ruling, however Wheeler has opted for the softly softly approach until some company breaks the rules.

This is in many ways a more powerful path for the FCC, as the threat of heavier regulation would be more damaging to companies than any financial penalties, which would be dwarfed by the amounts to be made from paid prioritisation of services such as Netflix.

The first test of this approach might already be on the way, with an increasing number of customers complaining that their ISP has been throttling streaming video traffic since the ruling, with Verizon simultaneously denying that it has done that and admitting that it wants to do so.

However, since the previous net neutrality rulebook has now been thrown out the window, the FCC will need to write a new one before attempting to enforce it. µ


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