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FCC posts its 400-page net neutrality order

Get your reading glasses out and put on a fresh pot of coffee. The Federal Communications Commission just posted its net neutrality rules. Simply titled “Open Internet FCC-15-24A1,” the order runs 400 pages. The initial rush to get it from the FCC website Thursday morning led to some getting an error from the site. But downloading quickly smoothed out by 10 a.m.635617526877900382-AFP-536088346-69381434

The commission voted 3-2 last month to approve the rules to protect an open Internet, or enforce net neutrality, as the principle is often called. The goal of the rules is to establish the FCC’s authority to ensure that the Internet is equally available to all types of legal content generators. Internet service providers (ISPs), mostly large cable or telephone companies, are prohibited from blocking or slowing some content and from “paid prioritization” to deliver some content via faster lanes for payment.

The FCC has approved net neutrality rules before, but Chairman Tom Wheeler was forced to come up with new ones after a federal court tossed out the previous rules early last year. While throwing out the rules, that court upheld that the FCC could assert its power to regulate the Internet, but needed to consider the network as a public utility and the ISPs that deliver connectivity as “common carriers.” The court also “affirmed the commission’s conclusion that broadband providers represent a threat to Internet openness and could act in ways that would ultimately inhibit the speed and extent of future broadband deployment,” the agency says in the order’s executive summary.

The FCC spent nearly a year gathering comment from citizens, companies and public interest groups. The agency received a record 4 million public comments on the issue. In crafting the rules, the agency had three objectives, the order says: “America needs more broadband, better broadband, and open broadband networks. These goals are mutually reinforcing, not mutually exclusive. Without an open Internet, there would be less broadband investment and deployment. … All three (objectives) are furthered through the open Internet rules and balanced regulatory framework we adopt today.”

In the order, the agency says that it is basing its authority on Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 and on Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Critics of the strategy have argued that Title II regulations could lead to the FCC setting broadband rates and increased bureaucracy. But the FCC has said it agreed not to use some of the sections of Title II and, for instance, not impose additional taxes or tariffs or require ISPs to unbundle some services or file a burdensome amount of documents.