Open Internet regulations, or network-neutrality rules, have cleared the final regulatory hurdle before getting on the books, a Federal Communications Commission spokesman said on Monday.
The rules, which limit how cable and phone companies can treat legal Internet traffic, are strongly opposed by Republicans in Congress, who have unsuccessfully attempted to repeal them on several occasions.
The FCC passed the regulations in December over Republican objections, creating the defining saga of commission Chairman Julius Genachowski's tenure so far and fulfilling an Obama campaign promise.
The Office of Management and Budget, which had a procedural role in OK'ing the regulations thanks to the Paperwork Reduction Act, had to review new data-collection responsibilities that the rules apply to Internet service firms. "OMB signed off late Friday,” an FCC spokesman said in an e-mail.
Verizon has threatened to challenge the rules as soon as they go into effect. The company already tried to sue the FCC over the regulations, but the courts told Verizon that it had acted too early.
Such a challenge could work. The rules are staked on questionable legal grounds, according to many analysts. The FCC lost a suit two years ago when it tried to use a similar legal justification to fine Comcast for unfair treatment of Internet traffic.
Public-interest groups strongly support the rules and would like to see them strengthened. When the policy passed last year, they complained that the regulations were less stringent on wireless providers than wired services, even though Internet access is increasingly going mobile.
Genachowski won qualified support for the rules from various companies, including Comcast and AT&T. Industry played a strong role in shaping the policy after the chairman held regular, closed-door sessions with top companies in hopes of creating a compromise package, something that riled telecom-reform advocates.