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Providers Can Live With Net Neutrality Rules

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All those meetings Internet providers held with the Federal Communications Commission over the last few days have paid off. They've spawned an FCC net neutrality agenda item providers can live with, at least until Congress gets a hold of it.

The proposed net neutrality rules will officially be voted on at the commission's Dec. 21 meeting.

The rules would establish an open Internet framework, prohibiting Internet providers from blocking or discriminating against lawful Internet traffic, yet allowing providers to manage their networks, address congestion and continue to employ usage-based pricing.

Nothing in the FCC's proposal seems to adversely affect business.  

"We find this ruling to be the best outcome we could have expected, particularly as it relates to the FCC's outright support of usage-based pricing, which is a meaningful step to cable being able to best monetize their broadband pipe; and overall support of broadband investment and innovation," Marci Ryvicker, a senior analyst with Wells Fargo Securities, wrote. She added that it is also positive for the Comcast-NBC Universal transaction. "Our contacts have recently commented to us that the FCC views this merger as an advancement of online technologies."

In statement after statement from companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast and industries organizations including NCTA and USTelecom, the stakeholders gave the FCC high marks for "compromise" and "consensus" while questioning the authority of the FCC to regulate the Internet.

"The stated objective of this initiative, an open Internet, is not at issue...The only issue is the extent to which the FCC should regulate in this area.... In tackling this issue, the FCC is hamstrung by an antiquated communications statute. That's why this issue should be addressed by Congress," said Tom Tauke, evp of public affairs, policy and communications for Verizon.

Congressional Republicans are gearing up for a turf war. In the latest salvo, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), ranking Republican on the House Communications, Technology and the Internet Subcommittee, and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, dashed off a letter Wednesday (Dec. 1) to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski, urging him not to circulate the order and questioning the FCC's legal authority.

"In absence of clear authority, the FCC should defer to Congress in this matter," Stearns and Barton wrote.