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FCC Moves Forward With Net Neutrality Rules

The FCC voted to move forward in its adoption of net neutrality rules, which aim to establish competition between broadband Internet service providers.

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Concerns by AT&T, Verizon and other providers were allayed Thursday following attempts by the FCC to make the process more transparent.

"Over the past several weeks, we and many others have expressed concern that the FCC's original (rules) as reported, would be significantly at odds with these objectives," said Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, in a statement. "Today's action by the FCC has allayed a number of our concerns, and while there are crucial issues remaining, we are encouraged by the Commission's action. In particular, we appreciate that Chairman Genachowski has demonstrated that h is open to the industry's concerns and willing to address those he feels have merit."

Earlier this week, Cicconi sent a letter to employees, urging them and their families to submit e-mails and letters on the FCC's blog site that oppose the proposed net neutrality rules. Specifically, Cicconi said that net neutrality would jeopardize jobs, "halt private investment in the Internet," "burden the industry with unnecessarily harmful regulations" and "stop the promise of cost-saving, life-saving services' such as telemedicine."

Cicconi also added that employees should use a personal, not an AT&T, e-mail address when submitting comments on the FCC forum.

The approval was the first step in a long process the FCC is required to make in adopting new net neutrality regulations.

As part of its due diligence, the FCC invited the public to offer opinions on the proposed net neutrality rules via an a dedicated forum, which incorporates comments from corporations, non-profits and other organizations, as well as individuals, into the decision making process.

The FCC said that the proposed net neutrality rules permit broadband Internet access providers "to engage in reasonable network management," which, among other things, would not allow them to block users from sending or receiving any legal or legitimate content over the Internet, according to an agency document.

The proposed rules establish that Internet providers would not be allowed to deprive users of their right to choose between network providers or prevent customers from connecting to the Internet with any legal Web-connected device. Internet providers would also be required to disclose information concerning network management and other practices "as is reasonably required for users and content, application and service providers to enjoy the protections specific in this rulemaking."

The draft rules also establish that Internet providers would be permitted to address harmful and unwanted traffic, such as spam, and prevent the transfer of illegal content, such as child pornography as well as the unlawful transfer of copyright protected material.

The proposed net neutrality rules apply to all broadband Internet platforms, including mobile wireless broadband. The Commission is also seeking comment on how it should address managed or specialized services, which could include voice, video and enterprise business services, or specialized applications like telemedicine, smart grid or eLearning offerings.

The FCC will accept public comments through January 14, 2010.

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