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Mixed Results for New FCC Rules on an Open Internet

December 24, 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The Federal Communications Commission approved new rules this week meant to protect an 'open Internet,' but groups that have pushed for rules to prevent telecom and network companies from being able to block, slow or prioritize different kinds of traffic online, say they're disappointed in the results. Some have even declared the 'Open Internet' rules to be "fake," because they protect the wired Internet but not the fast-growing wireless or mobile networks.

Stephen Bates, who teaches media law at UNLV, points out that the FCC could have left everything up to the discretion of Internet providers. He sees the rules as an important first step.

"The most important part is done now. We've established the principle of equality of users to different websites, and the rest is likely to fall into place. It may take awhile, but the principle is what's really important."

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, contends they're trying to reserve the right to charge for different levels of network performance.

"They're simply saying 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. 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 are disappointed in the significant role that corporations like AT&T, Google and Verizon played in crafting the new rules meant to regulate them.

Andrea Quijada, executive director of the Media Literacy Project, says the rules are devastating to rural and low-income communities like those in Nevada.

"We know that these are communities that are more likely to access the Internet on a cell phone than anywhere else. When we have less protections for wireless users than for wired Internet users, there's discrimination taking place, and we don't think that's right."

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

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV