US FCC's Internet rules clear a review hurdle

WASHINGTON Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:38am IST

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Artists work on producing special effects for a film at the Reliance MediaWorks VFX facility in Mumbai July 6, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Vivek Prakash/Files

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Controversial new Internet rules adopted late last year by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission will soon be published officially, a step expected to trigger legal challenges.

The White House's Office of Management and Budget signed off on the rules on Friday, according to a notice on the OMB's website, clearing way for publication in the Federal Register, a process which generally takes one to three weeks.

The rules, which try to balance fair treatment of competing content with the need for internet providers to manage their networks, will go into effect 60 days after publication.

Verizon Communications Inc and MetroPCS Communications Inc had accused the FCC of overstepping its authority in a challenge shortly after the FCC's 3-2 vote.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in April said the challenges were premature, coming prior to publication in the Federal Register.

The same court ruled last year that the FCC lacked the authority to stop Comcast Corp from blocking bandwidth-hogging applications on its broadband network. A decision leading to the FCC's latest rules.

Criticized by opponents as a legally shaky government intrusion into regulating the Internet, the new rules would prevent network operators from blocking lawful content but still let them ration access to their networks.

The debate surrounding the Internet rules has highlighted a huge divide between those who say the Internet should flourish without regulation and those who say the power of high-speed Internet providers to discriminate against competitors needs to be restrained.

The delay between the FCC's vote and official publication has been unusually

long.

Some industry sources and former regulators have accused the FCC of intentional foot-dragging to stall court challenges.

But the FCC has attributed the delay to data collection requirements that were subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act review process.

(Reporting by Jasmin Melvin; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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