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Category: Net neutrality

Senate rejects attempt to overturn FCC's net neutrality rules

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski

The Senate on Thursday voted to keep in place the Federal Communications Commission's controversial rules aimed at preserving open Internet access.

Republicans had pushed to overturn the so-called net neutrality rules, and a resolution to do so failed 52-46 in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The White House this week had threatened to veto the action if the Senate approved it.

The vote ends a months-long attempt by opponents of the rules to get them wiped out. In April, the Republican-controlled House voted 240-179 in favor of a similar resolution of disapproval.

Nearly all Republicans oppose the new rules, arguing the FCC overstepped its authority and that regulation of the Internet will stifle its growth.

"Over the past 20 years, the Internet has grown and flourished without burdensome regulations from Washington," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), who led the push in the Senate to overturn the rules. "If we’re going to keep an open and free Internet and keep the jobs it spawns, we should reject the FCC regulation on net neutrality."

Many large telecommunications companies have opposed the FCC's rules, including Verizon Communications Inc., which has filed suit to stop them.

Most Democrats, including Obama, argue that the regulations are needed to preserve an open Internet as the telecommunications industry becomes more consolidated.

"Net neutrality is not about a government takeover of the Internet, and it is not about changing anything," said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) "Net neutrality and the rules the FCC passed are about keeping the Internet the way it is today and the way it has always been."

Public interest groups and Internet advocates have worried for years that providers of Internet service, such as Verizon, Time Warner Cable Inc., and AT&T Inc. might try to slow down access to online services, such as Netflix or Skype, that compete with their own offerings, or charge premiums to some sites for faster delivery of their content.

Major online companies such as Google Inc. have strongly supported net neutrality rules.

The Democratic controlled FCC voted 3-2 along party lines in December to adopt regulations that prohibit telecommunications companies from favoring their online services over those of competitors. The rules, which apply to wired and wireless services, forbid companies from blocking access by their customers to any legal content, applications or services.

The FCC also prohibited companies that provide wired Internet service from "unreasonable discrimination" in their treatment of access to content and services. The tougher requirement was placed on wired services because there are fewer providers than in the wireless industry.

Obama has been a strong supporter of net neutrality. He made it part of his 2008 campaign platform and appointed Julius Genachowski as FCC chairman. Genachowski pushed the rules into place.

Obama praised the FCC for enacting the rules last year, and the White House this week described them as "an enforceable, effective but flexible policy for keep the Internet free and open."

RELATED:

Backgrounder on 'net neutrality'

FCC adopts 'net neutrality' rules

Verizon challenges FCC net neutrality rules in court

-- Jim Puzzanghera in Washington

Photo: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski. Credit: Bloomberg.

United Nations report: Internet access is a human right

UNlogo Internet access is a human right, according to a United Nations report released on Friday.

"Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all states," said the report from Frank La Rue, a special rapporteur to the United Nations, who wrote the document "on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression."

La Rue said in his report that access to the Internet is particularly important during times of political unrest, as demonstrated by the recent "Arab Spring" uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, among other countries.

From the report:

The Special Rapporteur believes that the Internet is one of the most powerful instruments of the 21st century for increasing transparency in the conduct of the powerful, access to information, and for facilitating active citizen participation in building democratic societies.

Indeed, the recent wave of demonstrations in countries across the Middle East and North African region has shown the key role that the Internet can play in mobilizing the population to call for justice, equality, accountability and better respect for human rights.

United-nations-report-internet-access-is-a-human-p1-small The report notes that while the Internet has been in existence since the 1960s, it is the way people now use the Internet, across the world and across age groups, with "incorporation into virtually every aspect of modern human life," that makes the Internet an unprecedented force.

DOCUMENT: Read the United Nations report

"According to the International Telecommunication Union, the total number of Internet users worldwide is now over 2 billion," the report said, also pointing out the huge growth in the number of active users on Facebook, which has surged from 150 million in 2009 to 600 million this year.

La Rue also urges governments to eschew laws that allow for people's access to the Internet to be blocked.

From the report:

The Special Rapporteur remains concerned that legitimate online expression is being criminalized in contravention of States' international human rights obligations, whether it is through the application of existing criminal laws to online expression, or through the creation of new laws specifically designed to criminalize expression on the Internet.

Such laws are often justified as being necessary to protect individuals' reputation, national security or to counter terrorism. However, in practice, they are frequently used to censor content that the Government and other powerful entities do not like or agree with.

La Rue describes the Internet as "revolutionary" and unlike any other communication medium such as radio, television or printed publications, which are "based on one-way transmission of information."

The Internet, on the other hand, is an "interactive medium" that allows not only for the sharing of information, but also "collaboration in the creation of content," which makes people "no longer passive recipients, but also active publishers of information."

As such, the Internet can be a tool of empowerment and aid in the protection of and access to other human rights -- as well as contributing to growth economically, socially and politically -- benefiting mankind as a whole.

From the report:

Such platforms are particularly valuable in countries where there is no independent media, as they enable individuals to share critical views and to find objective information.

Furthermore, producers of traditional media can also use the Internet to greatly expand their audiences at nominal cost. More generally, by enabling individuals to exchange information and ideas instantaneously and inexpensively across national borders, the Internet allows access to information and knowledge that was previously unattainable.

This, in turn, contributes to the discovery of the truth and progress of society as a whole.

But while La Rue argues that Internet access is a basic human right, he also notes that giving people that right isn't yet always feasible in every nation. But that shouldn't stop governments from trying to give their people affordable access to the Web.

From the report:

Given that access to basic commodities such as electricity remains difficult in many developing States, the Special Rapporteur is acutely aware that universal access to the Internet for all individuals worldwide cannot be achieved instantly.

However, the Special Rapporteur reminds all States of their positive obligation to promote or to facilitate the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and the means necessary to exercise this right, including the Internet.

Hence, States should adopt effective and concrete policies and strategies –- developed in consultation with individuals from all segments of society, including the private sector as well as relevant Government ministries -– to make the Internet widely available, accessible and affordable to all.

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Hillary Clinton says FBI will investigate Gmail hacking; China denies involvement

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Image: The United Nations logo. Credit: United Nations

Apple, Facebook, Google, HP, Verizon: A week of CEO, boardroom shake-ups and other news

This past week may have been a week unlike any other for the technology industry, with Apple, Google and Hewlett-Packard each making news with respective CEO and boardroom changes, among news regarding net neutrality and Facebook investors.

For the executive changes, some are said to be temporary, such as Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs taking a medical leave but remaining CEO despite handing his daily responsibilities to Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook.

Others could be the start of large changes -- such as the moves made at Google and HP.

The Times, on the Technology blog and with stories in the Times Business section,  covered the action with multiple stories from multiple angles all week.

Here, the Technology Blog has collected a rundown of the major news items as well of some of the most-read stories in Tech this past week.

Apple, Steve Jobs and Tim Cook

Apple's Steve Jobs to take medical leave

Steve Jobs no-show at Verizon iPhone event, the Daily delayed, due to health?

Steve Jobs medical leave: experts speculate but Apple quiet

Apple quarterly profit surges 78% to $6 billion

Apple falls but its rivals gain, pushing Nasdaq index to 3-year high

Steve Jobs and Apple probably picked the best day to announce medical leave

Steve Jobs: The perspective of Apple analyst Tim Bajarin

Apple's App Store hits 10-billion downloads mark

Google, Eric Schmidt and Larry Page

Google CEO Eric Schmidt to step down, co-founder Larry Page to take over

Google's Larry Page will try to recapture original energy as CEO

Google's quarterly profits jump 29% to $2.54 billion

Eric Schmidt, Google's outgoing CEO, to cash out shares worth $335 million

Google to give Eric Schmidt $100-million equity award, report says

Google Offers: Google's Groupon challenger is being tested

Hewlett-Packard and Meg Whitman

4 on HP board to step down

Verizon, net neutrality and the iPhone 4

Verizon files court appeal to stop FCC's net neutrality rules

Verizon offers $200 gift cards for customers to switch to iPhone

Verizon says iPhone will pause Web for calls: 'a phone is only as good as the network'

Facebook, more privacy issues, raises $1.5 billion

Goldman Sachs cuts U.S. investors out of Facebook deal

Facebook grants developers access to user addresses, phone numbers

Facebook temporarily disables developers access to user addresses, phone numbers 

Facebook raises $1.5 billion, $1 billion of it overseas, will share financials by April 2012

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

twitter.com/nateog

Verizon files court appeal to stop FCC's net neutrality rules

Letnrsnc

Verizon Communications went to federal court Thursday to try to stop the Federal Communications Commission's new rules to guarantee open Internet access.

In a widely expected move, the telecommunications giant told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that the FCC exceeded its authority when it enacted regulations last month to forbid owners of high-speed lines and airwaves from favoring their services over those of competitors.

"We are deeply concerned by the FCC’s assertion of broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband networks and the Internet itself," said Michael E. Glover, Verizon's deputy general counsel. "We believe this assertion of authority goes well beyond any authority provided by Congress, and creates uncertainty for the communications industry, innovators, investors and consumers.”

The FCC voted 3 to 2 along party lines last month to enact the regulations to ensure so-called net neutrality, a top priority of President Obama and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. The rules prohibit phone and cable companies that provide high-speed Internet service from blocking their customers' access to any legal content, applications or services.

The rules are tougher on wired service than on the still-developing market for wireless Internet service. And after years of debate, the regulations did not go as far as some Democrats and many digital rights advocates had wanted. That led to qualified support from some telecommunications companies, such as AT&T Inc.

But many congressional Republicans were outraged by the FCC's move and have pledged to try to stop it. Verizon, which said it is committed to an open Internet, has been outspoken in arguing the new regulations are not needed.

Genachowski's office did not immediately comment on the Verizon appeal.

RELATED:

FCC prepares to vote on Net neutrality rules for an 'open' Internet

Filling in the blanks on the FCC's Net neutrality proposal

-- Jim Puzzanghera

Photo: Consumer Electronics Association president and Chief Executive Officer Gary Shapiro, left, greets Verizon Communications Inc., chairman and Chief Executive Officer Ivan Seidenberg, right, and president and Chief Operating Officer Lowell McAdam during the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas on Jan. 6, 2011. Credit: Julie Jacobson/AP Photo

FCC approves net neutrality regulations

In a highly controversial vote, the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday approved new regulations for Internet access designed to prevent large telecommunications companies from squashing competitors.

The so-called net neutrality rules prohibit companies that provide high-speed Internet service from blocking access by customers to any legal content, applications or services, such as using the free Skype online phone service. 

For the first time, there will be government regulations to keep information flowing freely on the Internet and requiring Internet service providers to give customers more details about how they run their networks.

The rules will be tougher on wired Internet service from cable and phone companies than it will be on such service provided by wireless carriers because that market is in an earlier stage of development and is evolving quickly.  For wired services, the FCC added an additional rule prohibiting Internet providers from “unreasonable discrimination” in how they treat access to content and services.

The goal of that regulations is to prevent companies that provide Internet access from giving priority to their own offerings , such as the ability to watch TV shows or movies online, or slowing the delivery of services from competitors.

The FCC vote Tuesday was the culmination of more than five years of debate over whether regulations were needed. The rules are expected to come under tough congressional scrutiny and be challenged in court by telecommunications companies.

Read on:

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Filling in the blanks on the FCC's Net neutrality proposal [Updated]

The Federal Communications Commission isn't releasing details of Chairman Julius Genachowski's latest proposal for Net neutrality rules, but staffers provided a couple of revealing clues Wednesday. 

First, the proposal doesn't back away from any of the six principles Genachowski laid out in his first Net neutrality speech in September 2009: the "four freedoms" endorsed by the FCC under the two previous Republican chairmen, plus requirements that broadband providers manage their networks transparently and without discriminating unreasonably among the various content sources, service providers and applications.

Second, the proposal mirrors a draft bill that Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rick Boucher (D-Va.) tried to push through the House Energy and Commerce Committee earlier this year, only to be blocked by a senior Republican. That measure -- which was backed by at least one key Republican on the committee, some broadband providers, tech industry players and advocacy groups -- would have been less intrusive than the FCC's original rulemaking proposal. More important, it would have barred the FCC from reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service, which could have made it subject to price regulation and a host of other potential rules.

In particular ...

Continue reading »

FCC prepares to vote on Net neutrality rules for an 'open' Internet

Julius This month, U.S. regulators will look -– again –- at how to hammer out so-called open Internet traffic rules that have been hotly contested by both broadband service providers and consumer groups.

Regulations set up by the five-member Federal Communications Commission at its Dec. 21 meeting could determine whether companies such as Verizon Communications Inc. or AT&T Inc. could block or slow Internet traffic.

The standards, known as Net neutrality rules, could also have implications on the protections for wireless Internet users.

“The fact is that no outcome will please every stakeholder,” said Dean Garfield, chief executive of the Informationa Technology Industry Council. “At the same time, prolonging the Net neutrality policy limbo benefits no one -– especially consumers.”

Chairman Julius Genachowski has previously tried to draw broadband companies under strict regulations usually seen in the telecommunications industry, but was stymied by court challenges.

Web companies such as Google Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. weighed in as phone and cable companies lobbied hard for free rein to manage their networks in the name of innovation and competition.

But a proposal floated by Genachowski could ban a practice known as “paid prioritization,” in which carriers charge companies to speed up access to their content while slowing traffic to competitors.

Public advocacy groups have said that creating such a “fast lane” could create a discriminatory, uneven playing field for users while providers and some lawmakers argue that prohibiting it would stall investment.

Read on for industry reactions:

Continue reading »

Waxman's last-minute Net neutrality bill hits a GOP wall

Henry Waxman, net neutrality, Joe Barton, broadband, Internet regulation Looks like the Net neutrality ball is back in the Federal Communications Commission's court.

A draft proposal by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) and Rick Boucher (D-Va.) to give the FCC temporary authority to enforce limited neutrality protections surfaced last week, drawing favorable comments from telcom-industry allies and neutral ones from some tech advocates. But despite early support from a key Republican -- Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida, the ranking member on the Communications, Technology and the Internet subcommittee -- Waxman pulled the plug on the bill Wednesday.

The measure could conceivably resurface during the planned lame-duck session. But Waxman said he wouldn't move forward without "full bipartisan support" on his panel, and the committee's top Republican, Joe Barton of Texas, isn't on board.

Barton released a statement too, saying ...

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Dueling Hollywood voices over Net neutrality

There's nothing like an obscure regulatory issue to expose a rift in Hollywood's ranks.

The issue in question is Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski's proposed "Third Way" -- reclassifying broadband Internet access as a "communications service," which would subject it to greater federal regulation. The point is to give the FCC authority to issue Net neutrality rules, among other guidelines for broadband.

On one side of the debate -- the side generally taken by DSL and cable-modem providers -- are the Motion Picture Assn. of America and four talent unions: the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Directors Guild Of America, the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees and the Screen Actors Guild. They argue that reclassifying broadband would be a terrible idea because it would discourage ISPs from "detecting and impeding" piracy.

On the other side is the Writers Guild of America West, which argues that reclassifying broadband is essential to preserving Net neutrality and not inconsistent with protecting copyrights. To the Writers Guild, Net neutrality is crucial because it protects small content creators from being squeezed out by, well, the MPAA's members.

The two sides filed new comments with the FCC on Thursday, and it's worth reading both just for the contrast in their focuses. (You can download the MPAA/union filing here and the Writers Guild filing here.) The main point for the MPAA and its allies is stopping online piracy and imposing the lightest regulatory burden possible on broadband providers. For the Writers Guild, concerns about piracy are balanced against a desire for maximizing outlets for their work. While the major studios in the MPAA may like the idea of paying broadband providers for superior access to Internet users, the Writers Guild sees such online toll lanes as a threat to their ability to compete online.

-- Jon Healey

Healey writes editorials for The Times' Opinion Manufacturing Division.

AT&T, Facebook takes sides on Google-Verizon net neutrality proposal

Ralph-de-la-Vega Like kids picking sides in a schoolyard quarrel, big Internet businesses are beginning to throw their weight around in response to Google's and Verizon Wireless' proposal on net neutrality.

Unsurprisingly, AT&T seems to be siding with the suggested plan. Ralph de la Vega, the company's wireless chief, called it a "reasonable framework" in response to a question about excluding mobile services from the proposal.

The plan would allow telecoms such as AT&T and Verizon to manage how data flows to new Internet services, which some say could harm innovation, and to interfere with customers' online activities in order to thwart illegal file sharing.

The plan excludes wireless Internet, as accessed by smart phones, from net neutrality regulation. That Verizon and AT&T, the two largest U.S. wireless carriers, would want unmitigated control over their networks is not unexpected.

The Federal Communications Commission opposes the Google-Verizon deal. Duh.

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