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How the FCC will pre-judge new Internet service practices

The Federal Communications Commission outlined Thursday how it intends to conduct advisory reviews and issue opinions  regarding potential activities or new business practices in light of its recently enacted open Internet order – what some critics have dubbed the FCC’s “mother-may-I” policy.

The advisory reviews are intended to help the FCC enforce the provision of the open Internet order that allows the agency to protect consumers from open Internet harms that don’t yet exist.

For businesses or individuals that have a new practice or idea not covered by current law or legal precedent, the FCC said its opinions are meant to “promote legal certainty” and “reduce the number of disputes” under the open Internet order.

Here are the highlights of the 6-page guidance document:

Requests for opinions will be handled by the enforcement bureau.

There’s no “shot clock” or time line for how long it will take the bureau to issue an opinion.

Requests are public. That means competitors will see the request too. Companies or individuals can request confidential treatment for information submitted in connection with the request.

The FCC won’t take all requests. It is most likely to take requests for proposals where there is no existing law, no clear court precedent, but is of “significant public interest.” It won’t give opinions about “ongoing or prior conduct,” nor about “ongoing litigation or rulemaking,”

Opinions aren’t binding. But the FCC may rescind an advisory opinion later.