FCC releases 313 pages of Internet order

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The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday released the full text of its recently approved net neutrality rules, which face legal challenges and Congressional pushback. 

The order alone runs for 313 pages. Including the statements of the five commissioners, the document hits 400 pages, with the two GOP dissents taking up the final 79 pages.

{mosads}The rules were approved two weeks ago on a 3-2 vote and have proved controversial throughout the yearlong rule-making process. The FCC is sending the order to the federal register, and it will take effect 60 days after publication. 

For months, critics and Republicans in Congress had called on the FCC to release the text of the rules early, given the huge interest surrounding them.

Despite the pressure, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler chose to stick with precedent and release the final version of the rules after they were approved.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich) and Communications and Technology subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said their net neutrality legislation could do much of the FCC’s work with only six pages. 

“The world finally gets to read and understand just what the White House, acting by proxy via a partisan FCC vote, has done to impose the federal government’s heavy hand to regulate the Internet as a utility,” they said in a statement. 

“We look forward to working our way through the 300+ pages of this Washington manifesto. Our six-page draft legislation could prevent abuses and promote robust Internet investment – all without the overreach included in the FCC’s order,” they added. 

Internet service providers and other critics of the rules will also be reading the document closely to find potential holes for legal challenges.

AT&T, which opposes the rules, quickly released a statement expressing confidence they would be overturned. 

“We are confident the issue will be resolved by bipartisan action by Congress or a future FCC, or by the courts,” AT&T Vice President Jim Cicconi said in a statement.

Critics can begin pursuing legal action once the rules are published. Some Republicans are pushing a fast-track process to block the rules through Congress, which can get going once the agency formally submits the rules to lawmakers. 

FCC officials on Thursday said they wrote the rules to withstand the test of time. 

The rules would reclassify broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service in order to enforce strict rules that bar Internet service providers from blocking, slowing or prioritizing any bit of Internet traffic above another.

The rules also generally bar providers from any unreasonable interference between consumers and websites. 

Enhanced transparency requirements are also part of the order, and they will have to undergo review by the Office of Management and Budget before taking effect. 

The rules apply to both standard and mobile broadband and allow the FCC to make case-by-case reviews of interconnection agreements, which deal with the transfer of data from the backbone of the Internet to providers like Comcast and Verizon who ultimately route the data to customers. 

There are specific exemptions for “reasonable network management” and specialized services that “do not provide access to the Internet generally,” such as voice service through the Internet, connected heart monitors or e-reading devices.

This story was updated at 2:53 p.m.

Tags Federal Communications Commission John Thune Net neutrality
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