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Technology: Will the net neutrality rules last?

Legal and political obstacles challenge the FCC’s new rules.

On Nov. 20, 2011, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) net neutrality rules took effect. Several companies are already challenging the rules in consolidated appeals before the DC Circuit, which previously has shown some hostility to the FCC claiming authority to regulate this area. In addition to the legal challenges they face, the net neutrality rules may also be in political jeopardy depending on the results of the 2012 elections.

In its purest form, net neutrality means that all websites providing content and all users searching for it are treated the same. An alternative view held bymany Internet service providers (ISPs), is that ISPs should be able to charge their users different amounts to obtain different levels of service (such as guaranteed speeds), as well as being able to charge websites to have their content provided to users more expeditiously than other web content. While few advocate the purest form of net neutrality, many have come to believe in recent years that some form of net neutrality is necessary to maintain the Internet’s open nature.

Subsequently, the FCC went through formal rulemaking procedures and created its rules for “Preserving the Open Internet,” which are commonly referred to as the “net neutrality rules.” The rules generally apply to broadband ISPs and have three basic requirements: transparency;  no blocking and no unreasonable discrimination.

1. Transparency requires fixed and mobile broadband ISPs to disclose their network management practices, performance characteristics and commercial terms for their broadband services.


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Patrick Patras

Patrick L. Patras is a partner in the Chicago office of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP. He concentrates his practice in the areas of intellectual property...

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