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FCC will rewrite 'net neutrality' rules

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission says it won't appeal a court decision that struck down rules it designed to ensure that the transmission of all Internet content be treated equally. Instead, the agency says it will fashion new rules.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler announced Wednesday that the agency will rewrite the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules after the ruling by a federal appeals court last month. The ruling said the FCC has the authority to regulate broadband providers' treatment of Internet traffic, but the agency failed to establish that its regulations don't overreach.

The court's decision could affect the prices consumers pay to access entertainment, news and other online content.

The FCC's "net neutrality" rules barred broadband providers from prioritizing some types of Internet traffic over others. The directives aligned with the Obama administration's goal of Internet openness. President Barack Obama has said that "net neutrality" is an issue he cares deeply about, partly because his campaign was powered by an Internet free of commercial barriers.

Proponents of net neutrality maintain it ensures a level playing field for big and small companies. They believe it protects consumers and competition, and fosters innovation.

Comcast Corp., the nation's No. 1 pay TV and Internet provider, praised Wheeler's decision. The FCC chairman "has taken a thoughtful approach which creates a path for enforceable rules," said Sena Fitz­maurice, Comcast's vice president for government affairs.

The appeals court did affirm that the FCC has the authority to regulate broadband providers' treatment of Internet traffic. In its ruling, the three-judge panel of the appeals court acknowledged concerns that if it overturned the FCC rules, some broadband companies might act to undermine competition.

"For example, a broadband provider like Comcast might limit its end-user subscribers' ability to access the New York Times website if it wanted to spike traffic to its own news website," the court said.

The court's decision means that leading Internet providers can decide which Internet services — such as Netflix movies, YouTube videos, news stories and more — they allow to be transmitted to consumers over their networks.

FCC will rewrite 'net neutrality' rules 02/19/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 8:43pm]
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