Republicans give up opposition to net neutrality

25 February 2015

Senior Republicans conceded yesterday that the gruelling fight with President Obama and an army of activists over the regulation of internet service appeared over, The New York Times reported.

The Federal Communications Commission is likely to regulate internet service like a public utility, and bar superior internet speeds or other preferential treatment to higher paying customers like companies.

While the two Democratic commissioners would negotiate technical details, they would be expected to side with the Democratic chairman, Tom Wheeler, against the two Republican commissioners.

According to senator John Thune, Republican for South Dakota and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, "there would not be a signed bill that did not have support of Democrats". He added the issue needed to have bipartisan support.

According to commentators, the future of protecting an open internet had been fiercely debated, as potential changes to the rules by the Federal Communications Commission could affect users' online experience.

Also the new FCC rules are likely to see see many court fights with the cable companies and internet service providers opposing the new measures.

These rules could also be overturned at a future date by a Republican-leaning commission.

Meanwhile, reported that a Democrat on the Federal Communications Commission wanted to see changes that could narrow the scope of new net neutrality rules set for a vote tomorrow.

According to FCC officials, Mignon Clyburn, one of three Democrats on the FCC, had asked chairman Tom Wheeler to roll back some of his provisions before the full commission voted on them.

With the development, the chairman would need to either roll back his proposals or defend the tough rules and convince Clyburn to back down.

Clyburn's objections would complicate the anticipated vote adding an extra bit of drama to the tensions in the five-member commission. 

Wheeler would need to secure the votes of  Clyburn and Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to pass the rules, as the two Republicans would vote against anything he proposed. 

Clyburn's changes would keep intact the most controversial component of Wheeler's rules - the notion of treating a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act, similar to utilities like phone lines.

According to net neutrality proponents such a move was the surest way to prevent internet service providers from interfering with people's access to the web.

However, Rosenworcel is pushing for the elimination of a new legal category of ''broadband subscriber access services,'' created as an additional point of legal authority for the FCC to monitor the ways companies handle traffic on the back end of the internet.

The deals called  ''interconnection'' arrangements, had attracted controversy last year, when Netflix leveled accusations against Comcast and other companies of erecting ''Internet tolls'' before easily passing web traffic from one network to another.

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