New FCC Rules Limit Throttling, Content Blocking

Posted by at 10:15 am on September 13, 2011

The White House Office of Management and Budget approved the Federal Communication Commission’s proposed net neutrality rules on Friday, setting the stage for a certain court challenge by wireless broadband providers. Verizon and MetroPCS have already tried to block the new rules in Federal court once, as soon as they were announced. Those cases were dismissed on appeal in April, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling that any challenges would be premature until the regulations had been published in the Federal Register. Publication generally happens within three weeks of approval by OMB.

The period between the FCC vote on the rules and submission to OMB has been unusually long. An FCC spokesman says the wait was due to requirements of the Federal Paperwork Reduction Act. Critics, including Energy and Commerce chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Telecom subpanel chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) point to the length of the interval as evidence that the regulations are overly burdensome, costly, and intrusive.

The new regulations would prohibit ISPs from blocking access to lawful content. They also would require transparency on mobile broadband providers policies on throttling data. Verizon currently forces customers to use plan minutes rather than data for mobile VoIP apps such as Skype, and blocks access to Google on some handsets with Bing pre-installed.

Once published, the new rules will go into effect in 60 days. A renewed court challenge by Verizon and Metro PCS is widely expected.

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