Telecom Business Alert -- Vol. VII Issue 48

Date: Dec 06, 2010

FCC Sets Net Neutrality Vote for December 21st


Last Wednesday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced that a long-anticipated net neutrality Order -- designed to counter "real risks to the Internet's continued freedom and openness" -- will be scheduled for a vote during the Commission's December 21st Open Meeting.

The Order focuses on the regulation of fixed internet services, with an emphasis on transparency in network management. It does not classify the Internet as a "common carrier" regime, instead relying on the FCC's authority to regulate information services. While stating that "meaningful flexibility to manage their networks" was important for broadband providers, the Order will institute rules that prohibit the blocking of lawful content and "unreasonable discrimination" against lawful traffic. The plan leaves open the possibility of pricing systems that provide for "usage tiers" of bandwidth. Mobile broadband will be less directly impacted, due to its "earlier stage of development," but transparency regulations and a basic no-blocking rule in the mobile sphere will be enacted for mobile operations as well.

The Order still faces a number of hurdles before it can go into effect. It will likely face hostility from Republican members of the Commission, Commissioners Baker and McDowell. Neil Fried, the Republican counsel to the House Communications Subcommittee, said on Thursday that Congress would likely pass a measure to block the net neutrality rules even before Republicans gain control of the House in 2011. Additionally, the rules may face a legal challenge, especially in light of April's D.C. Circuit ruling in Comcast v. FCC, which denied the FCC the use of ancillary authority under Title I to stop Comcast from slowing traffic to file-sharing service BitTorrent.

Details Released on FCC's Experimental License Proposal

The FCC released a statement on Monday outlining details of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding Experimental Radio Service rules that will be voted on during the December 21st Open Meeting. In an effort to "promote cutting-edge research and foster development of new wireless technologies, devices, and applications," the Notice is proposing a new type of license for researchers. The license will be called a "program license" and enable licensees to avoid separate FCC approvals for every new experiment. The Program Licenses will have three sub-categories: research licenses, for universities and labs to experiment over a wide variety of frequencies; medical licenses for medical institutions; and "Innovation Zone" licenses, which will identify geographically discrete areas covering a wide range of experiments. The Notice will also propose to streamline existing rules for conventional experimentation and expand the opportunities for market trials by researchers and manufacturers.


K&H Telecom Minute: Narrowbanding

Starting today, we are including a new feature in our Telecom Alert: a link to a brief video showing an attorney or FCC Licensing Specialist at Keller and Heckman LLP discussing a telecommunications issue of interest to clients and friends of the firm. Our inaugural video explains the FCC's upcoming narrowbanding transition deadlines, and can be viewed at http://www.khlaw.com/shownews.aspx?show=4152. If you have questions about the video or would like to suggest a topic for a future K&H Telecom Minute, please let us know.

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