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FCC chairman vows to rewrite net rules – with Prez Obama's blessing

Renews plan to curb telco tampering of web packets

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The chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has pledged to come up with new rules to enforce network neutrality – after a court derailed his agency's previously issued orders.

Tom Wheeler hopes his freshly proposed regulations will prevent internet providers from unfairly throttling traffic based on applications and websites being used.

He said the new rules should conform to a US appeals court ruling – which halted the FCC's enforcement of its earlier net neutrality orders on the grounds that the commission was not authorized to impose the regulations, as they stand, on broadband carriers. Now the chairman will go back to the drawing board to draft new rules rather than appeal.

"In its Verizon v. FCC decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit invited the commission to act to preserve a free and open Internet," Wheeler said today.

"I intend to accept that invitation by proposing rules that will meet the court’s test for preventing improper blocking of and discrimination among Internet traffic, ensuring genuine transparency in how Internet Service Providers manage traffic, and enhancing competition."

According to the chairman, the new proposal will take pieces of the original plan that were upheld by the courts and combine them with additional measures that will enforce transparency from service providers and prevent them from preemptively blocking traffic of lawful content.

Why would an ISP hamper network packets flowing through its pipes? Perhaps if said packets were from a website that rivaled the provider's own products.

An effort by the watchdog to rehash its net neutrality push has been widely expected since the appeals court decision was handed down. The campaign received a push from the White House, which has come out in support of the chairman's regulation plans.

In a statement issued earlier this week, the Obama Administration said that Wheeler's plan was "encouraging" and that it "strongly supports" Wheeler's efforts.

"Absent net neutrality, the Internet could turn into a high-priced private toll road that would be inaccessible to the next generation of visionaries," the White House missive declared.

"The resulting decline in the development of advanced online apps and services would dampen demand for broadband and ultimately discourage investment in broadband infrastructure. An open Internet removes barriers to investment worldwide."

The proposed rules will be drafted by early summer for the agency's five ruling commissioners to review, and must be passed by a vote to come into force, we're told.

Three of the panel have already weighed in early: Mignon Clyburn backed Wheeler; Ajit Pai was "skeptical"; and Michael O'Rielly was unimpressed. ®

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