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IDG News Service - U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski will push for a vote this month on new network neutrality rules that would prohibit broadband providers from blocking customer access to legal Web content and require providers to disclose their network management practices.
The proposal, outlined by Genachowski Wednesday, would also bar wireline-based broadband providers from "unreasonable discrimination" against Web traffic, although it would not impose that rule on mobile broadband providers. The FCC would watch mobile broadband providers closely and act if it sees evidence of anticonsumer or anticompetitive conduct, Genachowski said in a speech.
The proposal would not reclassify broadband as regulated, common-carrier service, as Genachowski proposed earlier this year. Genachowski said he's confident that the FCC has the authority to pass net neutrality rules without reclassifying broadband.
The FCC needs to act because there are "real risks" to the Internet's openness, with broadband providers in recent years attempting to block customer access to Web content, Genachowski said. The new proposal is based on ideas from both Republicans and Democrats in recent years, he added.
"A central goal of the proposed open Internet framework is to foster this cycle of massive investment in both the edge and the core of broadband networks, to the benefit of consumers and our economy," Genachowski said. "Protecting Internet freedom will drive the Internet job creation engine."
Genachowski, a Democrat, announced early Wednesday that a vote on the new rules was tentatively scheduled for the commission's Dec. 21 meeting. The vote is scheduled about a month before Republicans, many of the opposed to new net neutrality rules, will take over the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, likely killing any chance of net neutrality rules passing in Congress.
Genachowski's plan, with details still to come, received mixed reviews.
FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, a Republican, blasted the proposal. "I strongly oppose this ill-advised maneuver," he said in a statement. "Such rules would upend three decades of bipartisan and international consensus that the Internet is best able to thrive in the absence of regulation."
The proposal is likely to meet opposition in Congress, McDowell said.
Genachowski pushed a "small group of hand-picked industry players" to accept either this proposal or reclassification, McDowell added. That choice "smacks more of coercion than consensus or compromise," he said.
The proposal comes from a slim Democratic majority at a "rogue agency," added Mike Wendy, director of MediaFreedom.org, an antiregulation advocacy group.
"With only specious claims and speculation to back their regulations -- not to mention dubious legislative authority -- the FCC has embarked on 'fixing' one of the greatest nonregulated communications tools ever created," Wendy said in an e-mail. "Sadly, this will frustrate its continued growth for Americans, slowing, in particular, the roll-out of new lines and services to U.S. homes, businesses and individuals."