Tuesday the Federal Communications Commission approved new rules that prohibit phone and cable companies from discriminating against or favoring Internet content and services.
The news arrived by way of a presentation in Washington D.C. By FCC chairman Julius Genachowski. According to reports, the FCC's three Democrats voted to pass the new rules and the two Republicans voted against them, calling the rules "unnecessary regulation." Afterward the Republican party on Capitol Hill quickly responded to Genachowski's speech, vowing to block the new negotiations by introducing a "resolution of disapproval."
In the meantime, the new "net neutrality" rules are broken down into six primary components:
1. Consumers and innovators have a right to know the basic performance characteristics of their Internet access and how their network is being managed.
2. Consumers and innovators have a right to send and receive lawful traffic. Consumers can go where they want, say what they want, experiment with ideas-- commercial and social, and use the devices of their choice. The rules thus prohibits the block of lawful content, apps, services and the connection of devices to the network.
3. Consumers and innovators have a right to a level playing field. The FCC rules state that no central authority, public or private, should have the power to pick winners and losers on the Internet. This is essentially a ban on unreasonable discrimination.
4. Broadband providers need meaningful flexibility to manage their networks to deal with congestion, security and other issues. The section also honors the business practice of tiered pricing.
5. The principle of Internet openness applies to mobile broadband. This means that there is only one Internet, and it must remain an open platform despite the device used for access. Mobile broadband providers are thus required to remain transparent and are prohibited from blocking websites or blocking certain applications provided by competitors.
6. The FCC will remain vigilant in promptly enforcing the rules and vigilant in monitoring developments in areas such as mobile and the market for specialized services which may affect Internet openness.
To enforce the new rules, the FCC has launched an Open Internet Advisory Committee that will assist the Commission in monitoring the state of Internet openness and the effects of the rules. It has also launched an Open Internet Apps Challenge at challenge.gov to stimulate app developers into creating tools that will help consumers monitor their own broadband connections.
"Today, for the first time, we are adopting rules to preserve basic Internet values," Genachowski said. "For the first time, we'll have enforceable rules of the road to preserve Internet freedom and openness."
Genachowski's entire public address can be accessed here in PDF format.