Update 2, 11.35 am Pacific: On a 3-2 vote, the FCC passed “controversial” rules on net neutrality today. From Politico:

Led by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the Democrats on the panel voted Tuesday to approve the first enforceable Net neutrality rules, which will prohibit Internet service providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast from blocking access to lawful content and websites.

The small print: no public copy of the rules “until later in the week.”

The rumor, however, is that “wired broadband will be more heavily regulated than wireless — a crucial point as carriers begin investigating pay-per-service charges.”

The NYT provides more detail about the latitude with which the FCC treats wireless providers:

Notably, the rules will be watered down for wireless providers. While they will be prohibited from blocking Web sites, they will be allowed to block all applications and services, except for the ones that directly compete with providers’ voice and video products, like Skype. (Skype praised this particular rule on Tuesday.)

If this is indeed the case, the FCC has truly squandered an opportunity. The U.S. mobile market could use a dose of competition, and this sounds like business-as-usual which means corporate silos/monoply rents trump interoperability/consumer choice.

The response on Twitter has been scathing:

@waxpancake: Can’t load the FCC’s net neutrality livestream? Try AT&T’s Gov Preferred package, which offers premium bandwidth for government hearings.

@freepress: Our statement on #netneutrality order: FCC Net Neutrality Order a ‘Squandered Opportunity’ http://freepr.es/fDexMa

….

@freepress:For those concerned about the role of money & corruption in how this vote went down – we are documenting that here: http://bit.ly/cHbBBz

According to the NYT, at least one wired provider isn’t ranting or raving:

Comcast said in a statement that “the rules as described generally appear intended to strike a workable balance between the needs of the marketplace for certainty and everyone’s desire that Internet openness be preserved.”

Nevertheless, there is already pushback among wireless carriers:

Multiple sources have told National Journal that Verizon, the nation’s second largest telecommunications carrier, may seek to overturn the historic open Internet rules to be approved by the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday morning. Sources said the option is on the table, but cautioned that no final decision has been made. The company will review the details of the new “network neutrality” rules set for adoption by the agency’s three Democratic regulators to gauge its next move.

KATHY GILL, Technology Policy Analyst
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