The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been moving forward in recent weeks crafting new regulations on net neutrality, scheduling a vote on a proposal this Thursday. However, CongressDaily (subscription) is reporting this morning that the proposal would exempt online companies Google and Skype from the regulations and instead focus on broadband providers, like Comcast and Verizon. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski circulated a draft of his proposed rules last night and an initial count has enough votes for the rule to pass. Both Democratic commissioners have indicated they will vote for the Chair’s proposal, while neither Republican commissioner has indicated how they will vote. The FCC expects to post the proposed rules Thursday.
Net neutrality is the debate over how much access should be provided and at what cost by broadband companies. In the past decades, members of Congress have introduced legislation to prevent broadband companies from pricing internet access and content into different tiers, which proponents of net neutrality claim would restrict access and reduce competition. FCC Chair Genachowski has made the issue a top priority upon his taking office, and even has publicly ruminated expanding net neutrality laws to include wireless carriers and not just traditional computer-based internet access.
Proponents of excluding website companies such as Google and Skype argue that net neutrality should apply to high speed internet providers. But opponents claim that Google’s expansion into the mobile phone world and a variety of non-internet ventures like Google Voice should open them to net neutrality considerations. Opponents also are weary of the working relationship Google has with the Obama administration – Google CEO Eric Schmidt served as an economic advisor to the Obama transition team.
Google recently came under fire when it was revealed that Google Voice, its popular free online calling service, was being restricted in rural areas to prevent incurring access fees. The FCC opened an investigation into the practice earlier this month at the behest of AT&T but was investigating it under telecommunications law, not net neutrality violations.
What do you think?
Should net neutrality rules apply to websites like Google and Skype?(surveys)
Senate Democrats debate including a Medicare payment fix to health care bill… House Democrats begin whipping votes on a health care bill with a public option that ties reimbursement to Medicare rates (and already have 200 votes)… Association for industry trade advisory boards sends a letter (subscription) to the White House protesting the new restrictions on lobbyists serving on federal advisory boards… The White House announces an extension of TARP funds to small banks… Congress and the Executive Branch battle over who should set appliance energy standards.