• FCC May Include Cell Service in Net Neutrality Rules
  • September 15, 2014
  • Law Firm: McDonald Hopkins LLC - Cleveland Office
  • The Federal Communications Commission is considering expanding net-neutrality rules to cover cell phone service.  FCC Chair Tom Wheeler said this week that “[i]nternet access on smartphones is a ‘key component’ of the investment and innovation that net-neutrality regulations are intended to protect.”

    In 2010, the FCC enacted net-neutrality regulations that barred home broadband providers like Comcast from blocking or "unreasonably" discriminating against any Internet traffic. But the rules were much weaker for Internet service on smartphones.

    Wireless providers like Verizon and AT&T couldn't outright block websites, but they were free to speed up or slow down certain services or exempt others from monthly data caps.

    A federal court struck the rules down earlier this year, and the FCC is now trying to come up with new regulations that can survive future court challenges.

    Wheeler reiterated his criticism of cell phone service providers for throttling Internet speeds for customers with unlimited data plans in certain circumstances. He also said the providers may have misled the customers by promising them unlimited data.

    He argued that just because consumers have more choices for cell phone service than their home Internet connection doesn't mean that the cellular providers won't restrict online freedom.

    Expanding net-neutrality regulations to cell phone service would outrage the wireless providers. In a filing to the FCC, wireless lobbying group CTIA warned that applying the rules to wireless networks would risk stifling the industry's growth.

    Wireless Internet is different, the group wrote, because of constraints on how much data the networks can handle.