What are the key things you need to know from the net neutrality rules
[pdf] issued by the Federal Communications Commission this week? The first thing to know is that it was a win for Daily Kos and all of the partners we've been working with for the past decade. The FCC crafted their rules to reclassify the internet as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, providing them with the soundest legal argument to protect internet users. That's critical, because big telecom is already lining up to sue them over this, but these rules have the most sound legal footing the FCC could have. What's more, they attributed their decision to reclassify broadband to the grassroots:
"The commission has considered the arguments, data, and input provided by the commenters, even if not in agreement with the particulars of this order; that public input has created a robust record, enabling the commission to adopt new rules that are clear and sustainable." (paragraph 13)
For the stuff that matters to us most, as an online community: the order bans paid prioritization, throttling and blocking. That means that outright blocking of content, slowing of transmissions, and the creation of so-called "fast lanes" available on a pay-to-play basis are banned. Daily Kos will be delivered across the networks as easily as the New York Times'
website or Fox News's or RedState (it still exists! Who knew?) and you and we won't have to pay more to have it delivered to your screen. In fact, it will be delivered to all your screens equally—fixed or mobile.
For more on the order, go below the fold.
It does this while using "a light touch regulatory approach." This goes to the hyperbolic ravings that big telecom and its supporters have been screeching since Chairman Tom Wheeler made it clear that he was willing to impose the strongest possible net neutrality rules. What it means, from paragraph 37 of the order:
This includes no unbundling of last-mile facilities, no tariffing, no rate regulation, and no cost accounting rules, which results in a carefully tailored application of only those Title II provisions found to directly further the public interest in an open Internet and more, better, and open broadband. Nor will our actions result in the imposition of any new federal taxes or fees; the ability of states to impose fees on broadband is already limited by the congressional Internet tax moratorium. This is Title II tailored for the 21st century.
No tariffs. No taxes. No rate regulation—the FCC is not setting prices for internet service. Nothing that will cost ISPs more to provide the service they keep promising their users. All of those things telecoms have been screaming about are not happening. It does not rely upon antiquated rules for 1932 technology, but instead applies the concepts of those original regulations—that this telecommunications service must operate in and further the public interest. That includes the FCC retaining the authority to protect consumer privacy. In paragraph 53, the commissioners explains that Section 22 of the order "imposes a duty on every telecommunications carrier to take reasonable precautions to protect the confidentiality of its customers' proprietary information."
Is the order 100 percent perfect? No. The FCC insists on relying on a vague "general conduct rule" to evaluate provider conduct on a case-by-case basis, "considering the totality of the circumstances, when analyzing whether conduct satisfies the no-unreasonable interference/disadvantage standard to protect the open Internet," (paragraph 138). That allows the FCC to "enable flexibility in business arrangements and ensure that innovation in broadband and edge provider business models is not unduly curtailed," but it also allows companies with huge legal teams an advantage. The FCC will have solid legal footing when all those cases are presented to it, but it could result in a flood of them. It could also allow ISPs to misbehave, figuring they'll take their chances on those they harm being motivated enough, informed enough—or well-heeled enough—to bring the case to the FCC.
The final rules based on this order still have to be made, and next week a total of five—yes five—congressional committees are going to grill the FCC commissioners next week. Which means we've won a huge, huge battle, but there will continue to be some skirmishes in the larger war. But four million of us turned the FCC around. We can take care of Congress.
Some members of Congress, on behalf of their cable donors, are trying to stop the FCC from protecting the internet we love. There isn't much time to stop them, contact them now.