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The FCC receives critical backlash concerning joint service agreements and net neutrality

The FCC’s proposals concerning joint service agreements between broadcasters and concerning net neutrality have been a center of controversy and criticism over the last few months.

Earlier this week, TheHill.com reported that broadcasters are suing the FCC over its most recent ruling, which has put a halt to all future shared service agreements. Under the new ruling from March, a broadcast company cannot own more than one of the top four broadcast stations in a market. Additionally, stations that handle more than 15 percent of ad sales for another station are considered owners. Any station that currently has an agreement in place has two years to end them, or else be found in violation.

Originally, the FCC said that it would consider requests for waivers, but a later ruling in April has made it more difficult for broadcasters to do so, reported TVNewsCheck.com. The FCC has said that it wants to see “specific facts that show a lack of incentive or ability for the broker station to influence the brokered station’s programming or operations.”

In the lawsuit filed by the National Association of Broadcasters, the association claimed that the new rules are “arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion,” reported TheHill.com. In an already struggling industry, shared service agreements have often allowed struggling stations to stay afloat.

Meanwhile, a proposal by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler that would allow companies to pay Internet service providers to speed up access to their websites has caused uproar.  The New York Times put it simply:

“The proposed changes would affect what is known as net neutrality — the idea that no providers of legal Internet content should face discrimination in providing offerings to consumers, and that users should have equal access to see any legal content they choose.”

As a result of the protest over the initial proposal, the FCC announced that the draft is being revised with new language that “will make clear that the FCC will scrutinize the deals to make sure that the broadband providers don’t unfairly put nonpaying companies’ content at a disadvantage,” reported WSJ.com.

Other additions include allowing comments over the debate on whether broadband Internet should be considered a public utility. Although the FCC seems to be taking the public’s opposition into account, WSJ.com noted that these modifications to the proposal are unlikely to satisfy those who want total net neutrality.

Both issues, joint service agreements and net neutrality, could have significant impacts on the industry, which some believe could be good, but which many believe will kill jobs and entire stations, and severely restrict equal access.

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