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FCC issues new net neutrality rules

Friday, December 24, 2010 | 11:11 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — New rules from the Federal Communications Commission restrict wired broadband Internet service providers from blocking any legal website.

The net neutrality rules also prevent them from slowing down the transmission speed of content and applications the providers don't like or those of a competitor.

The FCC passed the long-debated rules 3-2  on Tuesday.

The problem of search blocking and content discrimination does not exist now in the United States. The net neutrality rules are in place because there is the potential for such activity.

“For example, without some form of net neutrality, an ISP like Comcast could slow down the speed of content on their political dissidents but could favor the pro-telecom ones,” said Charles Davis, an associate professor in the Missouri School of Journalism.

But as much as the new rules are strict about the conduct of wired broadband Internet providers, they give more leeway to wireless companies. Wireless companies may still block access to some applications because of broadband congestion issues, even though they cannot block any legal website or any Internet telephony applications such as Google Voice or Skype from their competitors.

The rules would also allow “pay-for-priority” arrangement. The practice means a Web company such as Amazon.com or eBay can pay an Internet provider more in exchange for faster service. This could result in fast lanes and slow lanes in online traffic, Davis said.

The net neutrality rules will not affect the Web content.

“The consumers probably won’t feel anything because there will not be a content difference," Davis said. "The content would stay neutral regardless of the rules, on the wired Internet, anyway. The wireless loophole is massive, though.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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