FCC Gives Government Power to Regulate Web Traffic; Makes Net Neutrality Official

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The Federal Communications Commission officially adopted controversial Net neutrality rules Tuesday, giving the federal government formal authority to regulate internet traffic. Although, how much government regulation would be allowed remains unclear.

A 3-2 divided FCC voted in favor of  a proposal by Chairman Julius Genachowski to give the FCC power to prevent broadband providers from selectively blocking web traffic.

The rules are set to go into effect early next year, but legal challenges or action by Congress could block the FCC’s plans.

The new Net neutrality rules adopted Tuesday essentially require both wireless and wireline providers to be transparent in how they manage and operate their networks. The rules also prohibit the blocking of traffic on the Internet, which applies to both fixed wireline broadband network operators, as well as to wireless providers.

The debate over whether to have such rules and what these rules should entail has become a highly politicized issue, attracting the attention of both Congressional Democrats and Republicans.

Net neutrality supporters say the regulation doesn’t go far enough. They believe that FCC sided too heavily with big phone companies and cable operators in drafting the new rules and that the new rules do not provide enough consumer protection.

"For the first time, we’ll have enforceable rules of the road to preserve Internet freedom and openness," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Tuesday morning. He said the rules offered "a strong and sensible framework – one that protects Internet freedom and openness and promotes robust innovation and investment."

Robert McDowell, one of the Republican commissioners who voted the proposal essentially argued that there is nothing broken with the current system and that the FCC doesn’t have the legal authority to enforce these rules.

It will be interesting to see this fight for Net neutrality continue.

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