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New FCC Rules on an Open Internet Called "Fake"

December 22, 2010

WASHINGTON - More than 83 percent of Wisconsin residents have Internet access and could be affected by the Federal Communications Commission approval Tuesday of new rules meant to protect an open Internet. However, many who were pushing for rules to prevent telecom and network companies from being able to block, slow or prioritize different kinds of online traffic say they're disappointed. In fact, some groups have declared the Open Internet rules to be a "fake," because they protect the wired Internet but not fast-growing wireless or mobile networks.

Even FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who voted for the new rules, has voiced concerns that the regulations do not provide a level playing field for all users.

"An 'open Internet' should be available to all end-users: residential, enterprise, for-profit or not."

Clyburn specifically outlined the potential effect the rules could have on communities of color, which are more likely to use the mobile Internet for everything from work to keeping in touch with family.

Telecom companies say the rules should not apply to mobile networks because bandwidth is more limited, and they need to be able to manage traffic to provide the best service.

However, Amalia Deloney, grassroots media policy director with the Center for Media Justice, says what those companies are really interested in is reserving the right to charge for different levels of network performance.

"Simply, all they're saying is they need to protect their bottom line. They want to have the ability to be able to charge for as many things as they possibly can, as mobile continues to grow. And that is about making more profit - it is not at all about the bandwidth or the capabilities that exist."

Deloney says she and many others were disappointed in the significant role that corporations such as Verizon played in crafting the new rules meant to regulate them.

It is widely expected that the battle will now move to the courts, with challenges planned by both corporations and consumer groups.

More information on the new rules, including statements from each commissioner, are available at www.fcc.gov.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - WI