What Does the FCC’s Authority on Net Neutrality Really Mean?
While the FCC is busy determining the fate of the Internet, the folks over at Government Technology have been kind enough to put together a short article on the legal options the FCC might have to enforce any rules it might eventually come up with. There are essentially two legal options that may allow the FCC to regulate the Internet, both pre-date the Internet’s commercial use by some time.
Title II of the Communications Act of 1934
- Network neutrality advocates generally favor using Title II as a way for the FCC to reclassify Internet service providers (ISPs) as common carriers. The belief is that Title II classification would enable the FCC to regulate against any type of paid prioritization of the Internet, which essentially subverts net neutrality by enabling ISPs to discriminate Internet traffic by striking deals with content providers to deliver data through so-called “fast lanes.”
Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996
- Section 706 potentially gives the FCC authority to regulate ISPs to stimulate and protect competition in the telecommunications arena and remove barriers to infrastructure investment. It’s not clear, however, how the section would specifically tie into regulating content flow on the Internet.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is said to favor a Section 706 approach to regulate the Internet because it may give broad regulatory authority to the commission and in some cases could enable paid prioritization lanes to be created.
When and what the FCC ruling will be is not clear. The one thing that is clear, no matter which way the decision falls, it will most likely face challenge in the courts. There is big money riding on all possible outcomes here. This debate sometimes makes we wonder if anyone really has the subscriber’s best interests at heart?