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How the FCC Open Internet Rules Are Evolving

The following is a timeline of the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Rules, and how they affect mobile broadband.

December 2010: The FCC adopted an Open Internet Order intended to guarantee network neutrality. The order had three elements: transparent network management practices, no blocking of Internet content providers and no unreasonable discrimination against providers.

The transparency requirement applied to both mobile and fixed broadband service providers.

Fixed broadband service providers were banned from blocking “lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management.”

Mobile broadband providers were barred from blocking legal websites or applications that competed with their voice services, “subject to reasonable network management.”

The rules’ prohibition of fixed broadband providers unreasonably discriminating in transmitting network traffic did not apply to mobile broadband.

January 2014: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, in the case of Verizon v. FCC, struck down the bulk of the agency’s 2010 rules. Given the way the commission had classified broadband services, it couldn’t regulate broadband as a common carrier, the court said, and the FCC hadn’t shown those rules weren’t basically common carrier regulations.

However, the court also ruled the agency had authority to regulate how broadband providers treat Internet traffic under Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

May 2014: The FCC adopted an Open Internet Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on a rewrite of net neutrality rules. Specifically regarding its treatment of mobile broadband, the proposal “tentatively” concluded that the agency should keep the approach of the 2010 rules.

It noted there have been “significant changes” in the mobile marketplace since 2010 and asked for comment on “whether, and if so, how these changes should lead us to revisit our treatment of mobile broadband service.”

Among the questions asked is whether fixed and mobile broadband should continue to be treated differently under the no blocking rules.

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