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FCC pushes net neutrality draft to White House

Faces opposition from some Republicans and ISPs

By CBR Staff Writer

In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has pushed its proposed Net neutrality rules to the White House for approval.

Now the draft will have to be debated and checked by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) after probing Internet service providers (ISPs) on their networks and performance.

President Barack Obama has already said that he would veto the draft if it reaches his desk.

The Net neutrality debate has gained steam after The Netherlands passed a bill on it recently, becoming the second country after Chile to do so.

While Net neutrality advocates say that ISPs must be prohibited from discriminating users by providing selective services, speed and content, ISPs say a two-tier model would allow them to offer better services to their customers.

In the US, some Republicans are against a law for Net neutrality. Moreover it is expected that the FCC would be challenged by companies in the court.

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European member states such as the UK and France are still in the process of arriving at a consensus on Net neutrality, despite the efforts of European Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes to legislate against Internet providers who support a two-tier model.

In April, Kroes published an EU report on net neutrality which says that the EU will investigate whether ISPs are providing fair access to online services.

The investigation will cover both mobile and fixed providers and a report based on the findings will be published by the end of the year. The report could lead to a ban on ISPs from restricting access to data-heavy services during peak periods.

Kroes had said, "At the end of 2011, I will publish the results, including any instances of blocking or throttling certain types of traffic. If I am not satisfied, I will not hesitate to come up with more stringent measures, which may take the form of guidance or even general legislative measures to achieve the competition and choice consumers deserve."

The EU’s announcement disappointed net-neutrality campaigners. They have raised concerns that without stricter rules, ISPs may begin charging for unrestricted access to consumers and create a "two-tiered" Internet. This, they say, will harm small businesses.

Meanwhile, ISPs argue that traffic management is key to maintaining a quality service.

British ISPs have defended a two-tier Internet model at a ministerial summit on net neutrality chaired by communications minister Ed Vaizey.

ISPs – BT, Sky and Virgin Media – called for prioritising some traffic on their networks and block some. But the move could make some services out of reach for many users.

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