US to propose pay-for-priority Internet standards

The Federal Communications Commission is set to propose new Internet rules that would allow Internet service providers to charge content companies for faster delivery of their services over the so-called “last mile” connection to people's homes.

The agency also proposes to enhance government oversight of such deals to ensure that they don't harm competition or limit free speech, according to a senior FCC official familiar with the matter. The official wasn't authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is scheduled to present the proposed rules to the agency's four other commissioners on Thursday.

So-called “net neutrality” rules have been hotly debated among policymakers, Internet providers and content companies such as Netflix. Without regulation, say consumer advocates, giant conglomerates —citing business or political reasons— could limit consumers from freely accessing certain types of content.

The new rules are meant to replace the FCC's open Internet order from 2010, which was struck down by a federal appeals court in January. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., Circuit affirmed that the FCC had the authority to create open-access rules but said it failed to establish that its 2010 regulations didn't overreach.

While the older rules technically allowed for paid priority treatment, it was discouraged. The new rules spell out standards that such deals would have to meet to be considered “commercially reasonable” and are designed to survive a court challenge in the future.

Under the proposed rules, if such a deal for priority access were challenged, the commission would look at its impact on competition, on consumers, on free speech and civic engagement, and whether a broadband provider was acting in good faith.

The commission will also ask for comment on how to make such dealings more transparent, but didn't have a recommendation on the matter.

The new rules don't affect the exchange of traffic between networks that form the Internet's backbone. That means they won't have any bearing on Netflix's recent agreement to pay Comcast to improve the hand-off of traffic to its network. Netflix had called for the FCC to expand its definition of “net neutrality” rules to cover such connections and guarantee that they would be free of charge. Internet providers say they should be allowed to charge content companies when they absorb more traffic than they send back, like in the case of Netflix.

The proposed rules would also restore a previous rule that prohibits Internet service providers from blocking access to websites, which is meant to help Internet startups to succeed and foster the growth of the Internet economy.

The commission is also seeking to establish the minimum standard of service and will ask the public to help determine that.

The FCC is not seeking to treat Internet providers as “common carriers” such as telephone companies, which would subject companies like Comcast and Verizon to even stricter rules, although it is keeping the option on the table.

The draft rules kick off a policymaking process that involves commissioner votes and a public comment period before a final vote sometime this summer.businessBusiness & Real EstateFCCGoogleinternet

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Azikiwee Anderson of Rize Up Bakery pulls and twists sourdough into shape on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco’s Rize Up Bakery serving up sourdough with a call to action

Azikiwee Anderson wakes up most mornings just before dawn to start cooking… Continue reading

Although The City has been shut down and largely empty, people have enjoyed gathering in places such as Dolores Park. <ins>(Al Saracevic/The Examiner)</ins>
Come back to San Francisco: The City needs you now

Time to get out of the house, people. The City’s been lonely… Continue reading

A surveillance camera outside Macy’s at Union Square on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Is the tide turning against surveillance cameras in SF?

Crime-fighting camera networks are springing up in commercial areas all around San… Continue reading

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott speaks alongside Mayor London Breed at a news conference about 2019 crime statistics at SFPD headquarters on Jan. 21, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What the media gets wrong about crime in San Francisco

By Lincoln Mitchell Special to The Examiner Seemingly every day now, you… Continue reading

Vice President Kamala Harris is under fire for her comments in Guatemala earlier this week. (Examiner file photo.)
SF immigration advocates slam Kamala Harris’ ‘betrayal’ to her past

Kamala Harris’ comments earlier this week discouraging Central Americans from traveling to… Continue reading

Most Read