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FCC Publishes Full Text Of Net Neutrality Rules

Two weeks after it voted to approve rules on net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission has released the full text of the Open Internet Order. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler calls it "a shining example of American democracy at work."

Wheeler also listed what he calls "bright-line rules" in the order. From his summary:

  • Ban Paid Prioritization: "Fast lanes" will not divide the Internet into "haves" and "have nots."
  • Ban Blocking: Consumers must get what they pay for — unfettered access to any lawful content on the Internet.
  • Ban Throttling: Degrading access to legal content and services can have the same effect as blocking and will not be permitted.
  • The new FCC rules apply "to both fixed and mobile broadband Internet access service," according to the rules. The agency says that in the past five years, the number of devices in the U.S. that can use high-speed LTE data networks has grown from 70,000 to more than 127 million.

    Saying it's acting to block threats to net neutrality, the FCC states, "The record reflects that broadband providers hold all the tools necessary to deceive consumers, degrade content, or disfavor the content that they don't like."

    We're posting the full document here — it includes both the 313-page order and 87 pages' worth of comment from the FCC's commissioners, bringing the total to 400 pages.

    As we reported when the Open Internet Order on net neutrality was adopted by a 3-2 vote at the end of February:

    "The new policy replaces a prior version adopted in 2010 — but that was put on hold following a legal challenge by Verizon. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled last year that the FCC did not have sufficient regulatory power over broadband.

    "After that ruling, the FCC looked at ways to reclassify broadband to gain broader regulatory powers. It will now treat Internet service providers as carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which regulates services as public utilities."

    The FCC says the new rules are meant to help the Internet continue to attract both investment and innovation. And it notes a shift in Americans' entertainment habits as an example, stating, "2010 was the first year that the majority of Netflix customers received their video content via online streaming rather than via DVDs in red envelopes. Today, Netflix sends the most peak downstream traffic in North America of any company."

    The document also describes a growing trend of media companies such as HBO decoupling their content from cable TV subscriptions.

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.