updated 05:40 pm EST, Mon December 20, 2010
FCC's Copps voting in favor of neutrality rule
FCC commissioners Mignon Clyburn (DOC) and Michael Copps today said they would both vote in favor of the proposed net neutrality rules in the agency's meeting on Tuesday. The two Democrats had been uncertain but committed themselves in separate statements. Clyburn had originally hinted she might vote against the rule but decided that an imperfect rule was better than the complete lack of fairness enforcement argued for by opponents.
Copps echoed his concerns about the softness of the rules, which wouldn't prevent cellular carriers from charging by the type of site, but he hinted that the proposal was tougher than originally proposed. It will currently include a basic no-block rule to prevent carriers from banning competitive services on cellphones, like VoIP, and has an opening for tighter regulation if it becomes clear carriers are abusing their positions.
"These past three weeks have been devoted on my part to intensive discussions about ensuring the continued openness of the Internet and putting consumers, not Big Phone and Big Cable, in maximum control of their online experiences," he explained. "I have been fighting for nearly a decade to make sure the Internet doesn't travel down the same road of special interest consolidation and gate-keeper control that other media and telecommunications industries -- radio, television, film and cable -- have traveled. What an historic tragedy it would be to let that fate befall the dynamism of the Internet."
The two Republican commissioners, Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker, have both said they would vote against neutrality. McDowell in an essay insisted that Internet competition was largely flawless as-is and didn't need further regulation.
Some critics, including Democratic Senator Al Franken, have said the rules don't go far enough and could potentially be more damaging than no rules at all. Setting limits that don't properly regulate carriers could encourage them to abuse their positions more, knowing what they can do before the FCC can respond, he said.
Carriers have almost always objected to any form of regulatory pressure and have opposed the measure, even though they are known to have lobbied the FCC heavily in an attempt to lighten the rules. The vocal resistance has been hailed by some as an indication that the net neutrality terms will have at least some effect, since providers usually only object when new rules and laws will have them face greater competition.