In Short: What's in the New FCC Net Neutrality Rules?

The FCC just approved new net neutrality regulations in a close 3-2 vote.

Here are the basic rules for the new net neutrality rules as established under the new FCC order:

  • Wired broadband providers “may not unreasonably discriminate any lawful traffic.”
    • This rule does not apply to wireless providers, so AT&T could still slow your iPhone’s Youtube streams down if it feels like it is in its best interest to do so. Basically, this rule creates two classes of service that are subject to different rules: wired and wireless broadband.
  • Broadband providers will have to disclose their network management activities to consumers. So if your ISP is slowing down your BitTorrent traffic, it will have to be transparent about it.
  • ISPs (wired and wireless) can’t block traffic and websites on the Internet. Wireless carriers also aren’t allowed to block apps and services that compete with their own voice and video services.
  • Nothing in the order bans “pay-for-priority,” so carriers could still ask Google, for example, to pay a fee for faster service. The FCC says that it will assess this situation on a “case-by-case” basis, however.

Note: All of this isn’t the law of the land yet, however. Congress is still debating if the FCC even has the authority to establish and enforce these rules. As ZDNet’s Larry Dignan puts it, net neutrality will now become “a political hot potato in Congress. The FCC wants to be the Internet traffic cop, but Congress has never really authorized it to take such a role. That debate will pick up with a new Congress in January.”

Here is the full statement FCC Chair Julius Genachwski made ahead of today’s vote:

Net neutrality statement by Julius Genachowski, the FCC chair, on Dec. 21, 2010

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