Genachowski sets Dec. 21 for net neutrality rules vote

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says he'll take proposed net neutrality rules that "would ensure that the Internet remains a powerful platform for innovation and job creation" to a vote Dec. 21, adding that he's already sent copies of the "draft rules of the road to FCC Chairman Genachowski net neutrality speech preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet" to other members of the regulatory body.

Genachowski released his statement by email at midnight Wednesday. He said he will outline the proposed rules in a speech today (see this video of his speech). The draft rules, he said, are based upon a plan Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) put forth in September; with regulations likely more stringent for wireline service providers than for wireless operators.

The intent of the rules, Genachowski said, was to prevent service providers from slowing down or blocking access to content and applications.

But, he said, the rules also would give service providers the tools to deal with network traffic loads and with illegal or harmful content; and ISPs also would retain the right to charge consumers higher prices for different tiers of data consumption, like streaming movies.

Genachowski also said the FCC would require providers to show how their networks were managed, so-called transparency requirements.

With two Democrats--and Genachowski, who was appointed chairman by President Obama--on the FCC, and with three votes needed for adoption, the draft rules likely will pass, although he still may face an uphill battle with one of them, Commissioner Michael J. Copps, who favors tighter regulation.

Genachowski, in his email, also said he has moved away from his early desire to put Internet regulation into the same scheme used for telephone companies.

Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, want Genachowski to let Congress handle the net neutrality issue, and the latest announcement is likely to stir up opposition on Capitol Hill.

"This is a hysterical reaction by the FCC to a hypothetical problem," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on Tuesday. She contends the FCC chairman's action would have "little if any congressional support."

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