In Brief: Net Neutrality Rules Are Passed By F.C.C.

A new set of rules to regulate Internet traffic was passed this week by the Federal Commmunications Committee.

The rules will give the federal government the power to regulate the Internet, in theory giving equal weight to all websites and services.

On either side of the debate are broadband and wireless companies (Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon) and the growing number of Internet services and websites, such as Google, Skype, Hulu, and Netflix.

The rules will prevent broadband providers like Comcast from blocking or slowing down sites and services that compete with their own business, such as Hulu or Netflix. Though the rules also allow more leniency for wireless providers.

Here’s how Al Franken explained it to Congress last Saturday, before the rules were passed:

“Maybe you like Google Maps. Well, tough. If the F.C.C. passes this weak rule, Verizon will be able to cut off access to the Google Maps app on your phone and force you to use their own mapping program, Verizon Navigator, even if it is not as good. And even if they charge money, when Google Maps is free.” – as quoted in The New York Times

The new law is a compromise put forth by the FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, who has faced Republican and Democrat opponents on both sides throughout the net neutrality debate.

Republicans worry the rules give government excessive power to control the Internet, while Democrats like Franken fear the measure won’t be strong enough, and also worry that it sets a double-standard for broadband and wireless.

Before the law will go into action in 2011, some members of Congress are expected to challenge the regulations.

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