* Groups call on FCC to strengthen Internet proposal
* Want to ban paid prioritization, toughen wireless rules
* Wireless group says court an option if rules changed
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON, Dec 10 (Reuters) - The open Internet principles laid out by the top U.S. telecommunications regulator last week fall short of “real” net neutrality, more than 80 groups said in a letter on Friday.
Public interest groups, businesses and civil rights groups signed the letter to the Federal Communications Commission, saying net neutrality rules should ban paid prioritization of online content.
They also said the framework FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski laid out last week gave wireless carriers too much freedom to police Internet traffic.
“This is a make-or-break issue, and the signatories on this letter are unequivocal in their demand that fatal flaws with Chairman Genachowski’s draft proposal be fixed immediately,” Sascha Meinrath, director of New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative, said on Friday.
The FCC is scheduled to take up the contentious open Internet rules at its Dec. 21 meeting.
Genachowski last week proposed banning the blocking of lawful traffic but allowing Internet providers to manage network congestion and charge consumers based on Internet usage. [ID:nLDE6B00AB]
The rules would be more flexible for wireless broadband, Genachowski said, acknowledging that wireless is at an earlier stage of development than terrestrial Internet service.
Specific details of the draft order have not been made public as the commissioners are still working to shape the final proposal.
In the letter, the groups identified what they consider to be shortfalls in the proposal that could allow Internet providers to “harm consumers, stifle innovation and threaten to carve up the Internet in irreversible ways.”
Among the areas needing improvement was the flexibility granted to wireless carriers.
“This incomplete protection would destroy innovation in the mobile apps and content space, permanently enshrining Verizon and AT&T as the gatekeepers for all new uses of the wireless Web,” the letter said.
Wireless carriers like Verizon Communications (VZ.N) and AT&T Inc (T.N) want to prioritize Internet traffic on congested wireless networks and have said they already do so to allow handsets to make and receive phone calls.
Steve Largent, chief executive of CTIA, the trade association for the wireless industry, told reporters earlier on Friday that there should not be any rules applied to wireless but the provisions Genachowski laid out were acceptable.
Any changes that would put more regulations on the wireless industry would be strongly opposed and a court challenge would be an option, Largent said.
The group letter also called for a clear ban on paid prioritization, or charging content providers for a fast lane to reach users more quickly.
“This unacceptable loophole threatens to swallow the entire rule,” the letter said of the ambiguity surrounding the proposal’s ban on “unjust and unreasonable” discrimination.
FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn, both Democrats and supporters of net neutrality, have also raised red flags about Genachowski’s approach.
Clyburn has taken issue with the lax regulation of wireless carriers, while Copps has said he would have preferred reclassifying broadband services under existing phone rules, considered a stricter regulatory regime. [ID:nN09277157]
Their votes are key to adopting the rules as the two Republican commissioners have said the Internet is best able to thrive in the absence of regulation. (Reporting by Jasmin Melvin; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)