After releasing a brief statement to news outlets about the FCC's plan to change rules related to net neutrality that seemed to be favorable to broadband internet providers, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler decided that a more robust statement was needed today.
On the official FCC blog, Chairman Wheeler tried to explain how the new proposals for Net Neutrality would work and how it would contain safeguards to protect both content providers and consumers from “commercially unreasonable” practices by ISPs.
Yesterday the FCC said that it would be submitting a new set of Open Internet rules that allows service providers to set up a fast lane for prioritized traffic delivery that content providers could pay for. This fast lane would offer content providers with increased reliability of their services to consumers. Rights groups jumped on the new proposal, saying that it would have a chilling effect on new technology companies that have good ideas but not a lot of money.
Wheeler's full statement – also found here – can be read below:
There has been a great deal of misinformation that has recently surfaced regarding the draft Open Internet Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that we will today circulate to the Commission.
The Notice proposes the reinstatement of the Open Internet concepts adopted by the Commission in 2010 and subsequently remanded by the D.C. Circuit. The Notice does not change the underlying goals of transparency, no blocking of lawful content, and no unreasonable discrimination among users established by the 2010 Rule. The Notice does follow the roadmap established by the Court as to how to enforce rules of the road that protect an Open Internet and asks for further comments on the approach.
It is my intention to conclude this proceeding and have enforceable rules by the end of the year.
To be very direct, the proposal would establish that behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted.
Incorrect accounts have reported that the earlier policies of the Commission have been abandoned. Two points are relevant here:
The Court of Appeals made it clear that the FCC could stop harmful conduct if it were found to not be “commercially reasonable.” Acting within the constraints of the Court’s decision, the Notice will propose rules that establish a high bar for what is “commercially reasonable.” In addition, the Notice will seek ideas on other approaches to achieve this important goal consistent with the Court’s decision. The Notice will also observe that the Commission believes it has the authority under Supreme Court precedent to identify behavior that is flatly illegal. It should be noted that even Title II regulation (which many have sought and which remains a clear alternative) only bans “unjust and unreasonable discrimination.”
The allegation that it will result in anti-competitive price increases for consumers is also unfounded. That is exactly what the “commercially unreasonable” test will protect against: harm to competition and consumers stemming from abusive market activity.
To be clear, this is what the Notice will propose:
That all ISPs must transparently disclose to their subscribers and users all relevant information as to the policies that govern their network;
That no legal content may be blocked; and
That ISPs may not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.
We will continue to follow this story as it develops.