FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Details Plans to Foster an ‘Open Internet’

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler issued a statement today laying out the agency’s strategy for preserving and restoring open Internet policies, but also confirmed that the FCC had no plans on appealing an earlier court decision in the case against Verizon. The Appeals Court ruled that the agency did not have the authority to enforce its net neutrality rules over broadband networks under section 706 of the Telecommunications Act. The rules were designed to force companies like Verizon to treat all network the same and not prioritize its own services – or services that pay for faster pipes – over other services.

“The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit invited the Commission to act to preserve a free and open Internet. I intend to accept that invitation by proposing rules that will meet the court’s test for preventing improper blocking of and discrimination among Internet traffic, ensuring genuine transparency in how Internet Service Providers manage traffic, and enhancing competition,” Wheeler said.

In his statement Wheeler said that he will do a number of things to promote an Open Internet including the creation of new rules for ISPs, forcing ISPs to remain transparent about how they manage network traffic, putting rules in place to halt ISPs from blocking traffic, and soliciting public opinion.

“The Court of Appeals has affirmed the Open Internet Order’s transparency rule, which requires that network operators disclose how they manage Internet traffic,” Wheeler said. “This is more significant than many people may realize. We should consider ways to make that rule even more effective.” And as Wheeler notes, transparency would be particularly important because it would be the best way to determine if there was anything that prevented the FCC’s policy of an open Internet.

Wheeler avoided the topic of redefining ISPs as “common carriers,” which would make it easier to apply regulations to broadband providers and would likely survive a court challenge. Of course, Congress could fix the Telecommunications Act too, but that is highly unlikely given that the House is currently controlled by a Republican majority, which is not too keen on the FCC's Open Internet policies.

Other FCC commissioners (both Republicans) did not like Wheeler's plan and issued statements raising concerns.

“I am deeply concerned by the announcement that the FCC will begin considering new ways to regulate the Internet. As I have said before, my view is that section 706 does not provide any affirmative regulatory authority,” said FCC commissioner Mike O’Rielly in a statement. “It appears that the FCC is tilting at windmills here. Instead of fostering investment and innovation through deregulation, the FCC will be devoting its resources to adopting new rules without any evidence that consumers are unable to access the content of their choice.”

“The Internet was free and open before the FCC adopted net neutrality rules. It remains free and open today,” FCC commissioner Ajit Pai said in a statement. “Net neutrality has always been a solution in search of a problem.”

You can read Wheeler's statement here.

Source: VentureBeat

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  1. 0
    Neeneko says:

    Well, yes and no.

    It is true that being classified as common carriers or other NN solutions would not directly prevent rate use based pricing, if we return to the system where ISPs are required to lease out their lines to other endpoints then consumers would once again be able to choose which payment structure works for them.

    10 years ago (more or less) when I had Verizon DSL (and phone) I could choose my ISP and long distance carriers.  If I did not like Verizon's price plan I could go with Earthlink or any number of other options.  The result was competition between ISPs and consumers able to transition between them without physically moving.

    However today, I have Verizon FIOS, which is just a fancy DSL connection.  If they move to use based pricing, nothing in NN would stop them from doing that, but lack of NN would prevent me from doing anything about it since my two choices would be (a) pay their prices or (b) not have internet.  Maybe if I am lucky I might be able (depending on region) to try one other carrier, but realistically when you have a small number of players their marketing departments tend to emulate each other and their plans look almost identical.

    I would also say that lack of NN is a problem, just one that we have gotten accustomed to.  People have forgotten how much choice they used to have or only joined broadband after that choice had already been removed.   Untold numbers of small players have already gone belly up not due to poor service or business plan but due to incumbent carriers no longer having to let them play.   The current poor set of options and the impact that has on customer focus and variety is a direct result of rolling back NN type protections.

  2. 0
    Infophile says:

    It may seem open to you, but it didn't take long at all after the previous ruling before companies starting throttling certain services. I recall a comment from someone who'd gotten confirmation from AT&T that they were throttling the connection used for Netflix. It's only a matter of time before they ask either Netflix or the consumer to pay extra for high speeds.

  3. 0
    Sleaker says:

    One of the things to remember about other utilities is they are allowed to charge you for how much you use.  Classifying internet as a utility service isn't going to prevent broadband providers from charging per GB, or prevent rate limiting.  This is stuff that utility providers can do just fine within reason.  

    Another thing to consider is right now the internet is still pretty much open.  And NET neutrality isn't really an issue.

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