The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to hear the City of Wilson’s petition today calling for it to override North Carolina’s law against municipal networks. It’s also nearing a vote on regulating the Internet as a utility under what is being termed as “net neutrality.”
Internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile would have to act in the “public interest” when providing a mobile connection to your home or phone, under new rules being considered by the FCC.
The rules would put the Internet in the same regulatory camp as the telephone, banning providers from “unjust or unreasonable” business practices.
The meeting begins at 10:30 a.m.
More WRAL TechWire coverage:
- Talking heads skew ‘net neutrality’ debate
- City of Wilson pushes for more broadband access
- Net neutrality Q&A: What it is, how it affects you
First item listed on the agenda as published by the FCC is the Wilson. petition. The city of Chattanooga also is part of the case.
Under the heading “Community Broadband,” the FCC notes:
“The Commission will consider a Memorandum Opinion and Order addressing petitions filed by two municipal broadband providers asking that the Commission preempt provisions of state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that restrict the abilities of communities to provide broadband service.”
The City of Wilson built its own fiber network for delivering Internet and entertainment services known as “Greenlight.”
Next comes “net neutrality,” or as the FCC terms it: “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet:”
“The Commission will consider a Report and Order on Remand, Declaratory Ruling, and Order that responds to the Verizon court remand and adopts strong open Internet rules, grounded in multiple sources of the Commission’s legal authority, to ensure that Americans reap the economic, social, and civic benefits of an open Internet today and into the future.”
The FCC vote on the rules scheduled Thursday is considered a victory for consumer advocates and companies like Netflix and Twitter that have long warned that some providers want to create paid “fast lanes” on the Internet, edging out cash-strapped startups and smaller Internet-based businesses.
The broadband industry is expected to sue, arguing that the plan constitutes dangerous overreach. Republicans in Congress said they will try to pass legislation scrapping the rules, although it’s unlikely that such a bill would be signed into law by President Barack Obama.
“One way or another, I am committed to moving a legislative solution, preferably bipartisan, to stop monopoly-era phone regulations that harm Internet consumers and innovation,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement earlier this week.
Twitter said the new rules were a matter of protecting free expression.
“Safeguarding the historic open architecture of the Internet and the ability for all users to ‘innovate without permission’ is critical to American economic aspirations and our nation’s global competitiveness,” Twitter wrote in a company blog post this week.
Net neutrality is the idea that websites or videos load at about the same speed. That means you won’t be more inclined to watch a particular show on Amazon Prime instead of on Netflix because Amazon has struck a deal with your service provider to load its data faster.
For years, providers mostly agreed not to pick winners and losers among Web traffic because they didn’t want to encourage regulators to step in and because they said consumers demanded it. But that started to change around 2005, when YouTube came online and Netflix became increasingly popular. On-demand video became known as data hogs, and evidence began to surface that some providers were manipulating traffic without telling consumers.
By 2010, the FCC enacted open Internet rules, but the agency’s legal approach was eventually struck down. FCC officials are hoping to erase the legal ambiguity by no longer classifying the Internet as an “information service” but a “telecommunications service” subject to Title II of the 1934 Communications Act.
That would dramatically expand regulators’ power over the industry by requiring providers to act in the public’s interest and enabling the FCC to fine companies found to be employing “unreasonable” business practices.
The FCC says it won’t apply some sections of Title II, including price controls. That means rates charged to customers for Internet access won’t be subject to preapproval. But the law allows the government to investigate if consumers complain that costs are unfair.