FCC Chairman Vows Diligence in Protecting New Technologies Under Net Neutrality Rules

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has decided not to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service, which would open Internet service providers up to common carrier regulations under Title II of the Communications Act. Ignoring an important part of the Appeals court ruling (Verizon v. FCC) in the case it lost earlier this year (the court said the agency did not have jurisdiction under Title II to enforce the Open Internet Order), he decided to push ahead with a plan allowing service providers to charge content providers for faster lanes to the customer. That move was met with a general consensus of disdain.

Today, Wheeler wrote that he won't hesitate to protect the next big idea on the Internet under these new rules on net neutrality. 

"I do not believe we should leave the market unprotected for multiple more years while lawyers for the biggest corporate players tie the FCC’s protections up in court. Notwithstanding this, all regulatory options remain on the table," Wheeler wrote in a blog post. "If the proposal before us now turns out to be insufficient or if we observe anyone taking advantage of the rule, I won’t hesitate to use Title II. However, unlike with Title II, we can use the court’s roadmap to implement Open Internet regulation now rather than endure additional years of litigation and delay."

"If we get to a situation where arrival of the 'next Google' or the 'next Amazon' is being delayed or deterred, we will act as necessary using the full panoply of our authority," he also wrote. "Just because I believe strongly that following the court’s roadmap will enable us to have rules protecting an Open Internet more quickly, does not mean I will hesitate to use Title II if warranted."

Wheeler added that he will make sure any agreements between content providers and ISPs are "commercially reasonable." He laid out what he thinks is not commercially reasonable:

  • Something that harms consumers is not commercially reasonable. For instance, degrading service in order to create a new “fast lane” would be shut down.
  • Something that harms competition is not commercially reasonable. For instance, degrading overall service so as to force consumers and content companies to a higher priced tier would be shut down.
  • Providing exclusive, prioritized service to an affiliate is not commercially reasonable. For instance, a broadband provider that also owns a sports network should not be able to give a commercial advantage to that network over another competitive sports network wishing to reach viewers over the Internet.
  • Something that curbs the free exercise of speech and civic engagement is not commercially reasonable. For instance, if the creators of new Internet content or services had to seek permission from ISPs or pay special fees to be seen online, such action should be shut down.

Wheeler also pointed out that the court allowed rules that force ISPs to disclose information about their business practices. This, he says, will help "'rat out' bad practices by ISPs." Wheeler also addressed peering agreements, like the ones in which Netflix has agreed to pay Verizon and Comcast for direct connections to their networks. Peering is "outside the scope" of his proposal, but "we will seek comment on this question in order to hear from those who may disagree with this suggested treatment of peering/traffic exchange."

Source: Ars Technica

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