FCC intends to apply some limits to broadband providers

LOS ANGELES — The Federal Communications Commission has come up with a new way to apply some rules that would force Comcast Corp., AT&T Inc.
and other broadband Internet service providers to handle all Web
traffic the same, without imposing limits on users or blocking websites.

The proposal is aimed at blunting an April federal appeals court ruling involving Comcast that found that the agency had limited authority to regulate broadband Internet service.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the Comcast
decision has created a “serious problem” and that his agency believes
more regulation of broadband Internet service is needed, though not the
heavier restrictions that apply to telephone companies.

Genachowski said existing law allows the agency to apply a “narrowly tailored broadband framework” to regulate Internet traffic.

Previously, the FCC had a nearly hands-off policy
regarding Internet service in its effort to spur broadband development.
It had introduced only principles for so-called network neutrality that
were aimed at allowing customers to do what they wished with their
Internet connections.

But last month, Comcast won a court ruling that the FCC had overstepped its authority in telling Comcast,
the nation’s largest cable company and Internet service provider, that
it had to give its customers equal access to all online content
providers.

Genachowski’s effort now is to restore the agency’s direct authority over broadband service.

“Heavy-handed prescriptive regulation can chill
investment and innovation, and a do-nothing approach can leave
consumers unprotected and competition unpromoted,” Genachowski said.

The chairman also said the proposed approach would
not change the range of obligations that broadband service providers
faced before the ruling in Comcast vs. FCC.

The FCC’s position would help such companies as Google Inc., which owns video website YouTube, and online retailers of music and video such as Amazon.com Inc.

Both Google
and Amazon have publicly supported net neutrality rules and don’t want
Internet providers to be able to charge them a premium so their
customers can have faster download speeds when visiting their websites.

Comcast, for instance, had blocked some of its customers from using the popular BitTorrent Inc.
technology that allows users to more easily download videos, arguing
that data hogs were clogging its network. And the appeals court
decision upheld its right to do so.

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