Despite GOP Backlash, FCC Net Neutrality Rules Will Likely Pass

Support of Democratic commissioners gives chairman a majority support for his open internet regulations

The Federal Communications Commission is poised to pass new regulations requiring internet providers to treat content equally at its Tuesday annual meeting.

Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn, both Democratic appointees, announced Monday that they will vote for rules aimed at ensuring net neutrality. Their support gives FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski a majority of votes on the five member panel for his new ‘rules of the road’ related to Internet access.

“The open Internet is a crucial American marketplace and I believe it is appropriate for the FCC to safeguard it by adopting an Order that will establish clear rules to guard consumers’ access,” Clyburn said in a statement.

Though Copps said he would endorse the proposal, he was less enthusiastic in his backing than Clyburn.

“While I cannot vote wholeheartedly to approve the item, I will not block it by voting against it. I instead plan to concur so that we may move forward,” Copps said in a statement.

The FCC’s rules would prevent major broadband providers such as Comcast or Verizon from blocking access to digital content or from forcing customers to pay for premium service. It also gives the commission the ability to impose fines or issue injunctions against providers it finds are violating the rules.

Though Genachowski’s rules will likely be approved, they will still face opposition from Republican members of Congress and legal challenges.

Last summer the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC, which can regulate broadcast TV and telephone landlines, doesn’t have the authority to regulate the internet. Genachowski had floated the possibility of reclassifying the internet as phone service, so it would fall under the FCC’s jurisdition, However, he will not redefine broadband along those lines as part of Tuesday’s order, according to a senior FCC official.