Nobody Loves the FCC's Network Neutrality Rules

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Here’s a sure bet: There’s a lot more wrangling in store on network neutrality (see Net Neutrality Rules Appear Headed For Approval).

Verizon is mulling a lawsuit challenging the FCC’s proposed network neutrality regulations, National Journal reports.

FCC commissioner Robert McDowell, a Republican, said the agency “will circumvent Congress and disregard a recent court ruling” in an essay in the Wall Street Journal. “The FCC’s action will spark a billable-hours bonanza as lawyers litigate the meaning of ‘reasonable’ network management for years to come. How’s that for regulatory certainty?”

Meanwhile, consumer activists who want heavier-handed Internet regulations decried the FCC’s proposed rules as “fake” network neutrality (see Net Neutrality Fans Pan FCC Order).

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowksi says the choice was between doing nothing and adopting “a set of detailed and rigid regulations… I reject both extremes in favor of a strong and sensible framework — one that protects Internet freedom and openness and promotes robust innovation and investment.” (See Genachowski: Net Neutrality Order Rejects Extremes.) Evidently the loophole exempting wireless Internet providers from the “unreasonable discrimination” requirement was realpolitik aimed at the latter category.

To me, the risks of regulatory overreach far outweigh the benefits of trying to “fix” something that isn’t really broken.

For example, you and I can agree in principle that it’s “reasonable” for an ISP to block spam — but a court might side with Ch3@pV!@gra Incorporated in interpreting a strict FCC network neutrality regime as allowing certain unsolicited e-mail. It’s also feasible that third-party content delivery network providers like Akamai Technologies would be accused of providing unfair “paid prioritization,” depending on how loosely the terms are defined (see Would ‘Real’ Network Neutrality Outlaw CDNs? and Down In the Weeds of Network Neutrality).

What do you think?

Are new network neutrality rules an answer in search of a question? Or are better safeguards needed? Add your comments below.

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