The 'Open Internet' May End Up a Semi-Open Internet

It looks as though the FCC is favoring a hybrid approach to net neutrality.

The FCC is reportedly closing in on an unsurprisingly convoluted solution to its 'Open Internet' proceedings around how to treat broadband data transmissions in the U.S. The debate generated a record 3.7 million comments from the public, most against the idea of letting certain types of traffic be prioritized over others. (You can download the entirety of the comments here.)

While the FCC and chairman Tom Wheeler haven't put forth a formal proposal, the scuttlebutt is that the commission will be presenting a hybrid plan, somewhere between reclassifying broadband internet service providers as common carriers and allowing them to charge for prioritization between providers and content creators like Netflix (which, not waiting for ideologies to catch up with reality, already pays broadband providers for 'interconnection').

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Four days ago, FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn delivered remarks to the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit, held at Georgetown University in D.C. Clyburn said that the FCC looks to be "a 'facilitator of opportunities,' and a 'connector of the disconnected,'" continuing to say they want to be "a strong advocate for free enterprise and robust competition. I support allowing markets the chance to solve problems, while remaining focused on the consumer." Clyburn's remarks seemed to indicate the FCC's move towards a hybrid solution to the debate, repeatedly stressing the importance of an agnostic approach to consumer data, while "promoting competition" between companies.

"The power of an Open Internet enables musicians who have been told 'no' by big corporations to prove critics and gatekeepers wrong. Musicians can distribute their content online, and demonstrate the power of a good idea to reach millions," said Clyburn. The FCC's hybrid approach was also alluded to in a blog post last month from the commission, as Re/code highlighted earlier today (Oct. 31).

This all began nearly a year ago, when Verizon won a court case in January of this year that removed much the FCC's regulatory authority over broadband internet service providers. The FCC was essentially left with two options: to reclassify broadband providers as 'common carriers,' giving the FCC a suite of legal tools and much broader authority over companies' treatment of data transmissions (the rules were first written to govern telephone networks), or allow providers to prioritize -- for a price -- certain data between customers and content providers.

The FCC is expected to present its plan over the next few weeks.