FCC Braces for Fight After Publishing Final 313-Page Net Neutrality Order

Release of order kicks off expected lengthy period of legal challenges

The FCC on Thursday formally published the 313-page net neutrality order it approved Feb. 26, a move that will start the clock rolling toward expected court challenges.

As expected the order uses traditional utility regulation to say any effort to provide consumers better access to favored legal Internet content at the expense of rival legal content is illegal.

The order comes as Republicans in Congress move forward in efforts to take action that intended to overturn the order, though the legislation is likely to be vetoed by President Obama if it is approved by the House and Senate.

Lobbyists on both sides of the net neutrality debate had been waiting for the FCC to formally release the order to determine exactly how net neutrality guarantees would apply to transactions in which Web video programmers like Netflix need to distribute their video signals through internet service providers and service providers demand connection fees.

The FCC had said that while net neutrality applied to consumers use of the Web, it would look at individual complaints about interconnection issues, but the rules detail how that would work. Thursday’s release of the rule launched a new range of reaction to net neutrality from Congress, consumer groups and internet service providers.

“The world finally gets to read and understand just what the White House, acting by proxy via a partisan FCC vote, has done to impose the federal government’s heavy hand to regulate the Internet as a utility. We look forward to working our way through the 300 pages of this Washington manifesto,” said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., in a joint statement with House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and House Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore.

“Our six-page draft legislation could prevent abuses and promote robust Internet investment — all without the overreach included in the FCC’s order,” the statement said.

Matt Wood, policy director of Free Press, praised the FCC: “These rules are an all-too-rare example of Washington actually working for the people — responding to a massive public outcry to protect Internet users and keep powerful corporations in check.”

“Now that Congress and everyone else can read the rules, we can continue to have a debate about protecting free speech on the Internet. But we can dismiss the ridiculous claims from the phone and cable companies and their fear-mongering mouthpieces. This is not a government takeover of the Internet or an onerous utility-style regulation. Any claims that these rules create new taxes or harm investment have been completely debunked,” Wood said.

The final report can be read on the FCC’s site (PDF).