OVERNIGHT TECH: FCC passes net-neutrality rules over strong opposition

Welcome back to Overnight Tech after a long day of net-neutrality news. 

Net-neutrality rules became formalized for the first time ever on Tuesday. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski cited broad support, but not everyone was pleased:

Genachowski gets some praise: It came from some key Congressional Democrats including House Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (Calif.), who authored the framework that Genachowski used as a basis for his rules. Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.) and Communications subcommittee Chairman John Kerry (Mass.) also issued generally supportive comments. 

President Obama issued one of the most positive remarks: "Today’s decision will help preserve the free and open nature of the Internet while encouraging innovation, protecting consumer choice, and defending free speech. Throughout this process, parties on all sides of this issue — from consumer groups to technology companies to broadband providers — came together to make their voices heard. This decision is an important component of our overall strategy to advance American innovation, economic growth, and job creation."

The White House seems ready to claim a victory: However, ardent net-neutrality supporters say this doesn't fulfill Obama's campaign promise to support net neutrality.

Lukewarm comments abound: Genachowski received qualified support from some industry players, many of whom said they wished the rules were different, stronger, or nonexistent — but that they could have been worse. The Open Internet Coalition, for instance, said it wanted stronger wireless protections. As the National Cable & Telecommunications Association put it, "While, like apparently everyone else in America, this would not be the Order we would have written, we do appreciate the attempt to provide certainty." 

Broadband providers pan the proposal: Verizon said it is "deeply concerned" and USTelecom, the association for broadband providers, said outright, "We do not support the final rule." The association added that the commission "will come to regret" the action it has taken. 

The harshest criticism came from Congressional Republicans: The FCC action will become another battleground in between Congressional Republicans and the Obama administration, as Energy and Commerce Republicans pledge hearings and legislation early in the next Congress to combat the regulations. Read more in The Hill: http://bit.ly/gdxDFR

Authority questions remain. Public Knowledge questioned whether the FCC has authority for its efforts beyond net neutrality, citing the E-911 order also approved Tuesday. "The questions raised about legal authority and the need to classify broadband under Title II do not disappear with the FCC action on the Net Neutrality rules. A national broadband-based 911 system should not rest on untested legal theories or be constrained by the fear that carriers will challenge rules in court," said Harold Feld, legal director of PK. 

Is it over? No, analysts say. "Because the rules are very high-level, their meaning and impact will be determined by how the facts on the ground develop over the next few years, and thus we expect the battle will continue in the marketplace and through FCC case-by-case enforcement, as well as in Congress and the courts," analysts at Stifel Nicolaus said in a note on Tuesday. 

In non-open-Internet news:

The Competes Act, which authorizes science education and R&D spending, is finally on its way to President Obama's desk. http://bit.ly/ftZoCc

The FTC cleared Intel's purchase of McAffee. http://on.wsj.com/gtXeOA

Gibbs says Obama administration is more transparent thanks to Twitter. http://bit.ly/ht7Evz