FCC commissioner defends net neutrality order

April 12, 2015, 9:33 p.m.

Mignon Clyburn, commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission(FCC), defended the FCC’s recent net neutrality order at Stanford’s Rebele Symposium on April 1.

During the symposium, Commissioner Clyburn explained the order’s implications for internet users and defended the more controversial aspects of the order—namely the reclassification of internet service providers (ISPs) as telecommunications services, the ban on paid prioritization and the FCC’s new Standard for Future Conduct.

Previously, the FCC classified ISPs as an information service. Now, the recent reclassification as a telecommunication service will subject them to more regulation.

Some see this decision as an unjustified and self-interested attempt by the FCC to expand their jurisdiction over the internet. However, Clyburn explained that the move was justified, given that the primary use of the internet is to send and receive content between users.

“The decision to reclassify broadband services as a telecommunication service was basically a factual one,” said Clyburn.

Another controversy within the recent net neutrality order is a ban on paid prioritization—a decision that forbids broadband providers from favoring some internet traffic over others in exchange for payment or other types of consideration. In other words, the FCC has banned users from purchasing “fast lane” internet service at an additional cost.

“I also believe the rules will ensure the internet remains the great equalizer of our time,” Clyburn said in defense of the ban.

Critics, however, argue that paid prioritization is justified in some cases—for example, medical imaging companies should be able to pay an extra fee in order to have their content prioritized and rushed. Others still find it justified in preventing the creation of a “second class internet”.

The net neutrality order also includes a Standard for Future Conduct, which essentially grants the FCC legal authority in addressing any future controversies regarding internet use and ISPs.

The Standard for Future Conduct was created following a 2010 Supreme Court ruling, which stated that the FCC did not have enough legal authority to monitor Comcast’s internet service. However, some argue that the Standard for Future Conduct once again grants too much authority to the FCC.

“This rule is designed to ensure that we have the tools to address future conduct,” Clyburn explained.


Contact Allegra McComb at amccomb ‘at’ Stanford.edu.

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