New net neutrality rules

The FCC’s new net neutrality rules are being attacked not only by internet activists, but by Republicans who call it “interventionist overreach.” Attacks from both sides might tempt you to believe that this must therefore be a reasonable compromise, but you would be wrong. (Here’s a clue: The telecoms love it!):

Come Tuesday afternoon, following what will likely be a 3-2 party line vote at the FCC, the new rules of the road will resemble the old rules in many respects — just with less legal authority, and a massive new loophole. For the first time, federal policy would allow for so-called reasonable “paid prioritization,” which critics argue is the first step toward cleaving out high-speed, premium fast-lanes from the “public internet.” This could jeopardize internet innovation by disincentivising entrepreneurial activity on the free, or regular, internet.

The new policy appeared to cross a key hurdle Monday when Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said he would support it.

“The item we will vote on tomorrow is not the one I would have crafted,” Copps said in a statement. “But I believe we have been able to make the current iteration better than what was originally circulated. If vigilantly and vigorously implemented by the Commission — and if upheld by the courts — it could represent an important milestone in the ongoing struggle to safeguard the awesome opportunity-creating power of the open Internet.”

“While I cannot vote wholeheartedly to approve the item, I will not block it by voting against it,” Copps added.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a liberal advocacy group that supports net neutrality, instantly launched a fusillade against Copps.

“Internet users across America will have lost a hero if Commissioner Copps caves to pressure from big business and supports FCC Chairman Genachowski’s fake Net Neutrality rules — rules written by AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, the very companies the public is depending on the FCC to regulate strongly,” PCCC Senior Online Campaigns Director Jason Rosenbaum said in a statement. “There’s no such thing as half a First Amendment, and there’s no such thing as half of Net Neutrality. If approved, Genachowski’s industry-written rules would be a historic mistake: For the first time, the FCC would give its stamp of approval to discrimination online.”

The apparent denouement of this saga comes after five years of debates, lawsuits, botched regulatory actions, grassroots campaigns, and millions of dollars spent lobbying the federal government.