We expected FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to rule in favor of ‘Net Neutrality’, so today’s letter comes as no real surprise. What Wheeler laid out was effectively a blueprint for keeping the Internet as free and open as we find it now, possibly forever. After a whopping four million public comments on the matter, Wheeler is set to ask his commissioners to examine a proposal to officially reclassify mobile broadband providers like AT&T under Title II, which will give the FCC stricter oversight.
What Title II does is eliminate what Wheeler calls “paid prioritization”, which brought information to you faster should the sender of that information (like Netflix) pay for it. This is how talk of the ‘fast lane’ Internet began, and is seen by many as the crux of the Net Neutrality argument.
Title II is seen by opponents as staunch and tired, but Wheeler wants to modernize it. In addition to the ability to reclassify providers, he’s also proposing no rate regulations or tariffs. Wheeler’s aim is to keep broadband providers happy and investing in their networks, to which he says “Over the last 21 years, the wireless industry has invested almost $300 billion under similar rules, proving that modernized Title II regulation can encourage investment and competition.”
The proposal closely watches existing providers and services, but also opens itself up to more. It’s sometimes impossible to see where new issues may arise, or how serious they will be, so Wheeler is also proposing a ‘general conduct rule’ for what may come. With a baseline rule for how providers should act, the FCC will also have the ability to create necessary rules prohibiting similar or new issues that may arise in the future.
On the surface, Wheeler’s proposal sounds fairly responsive and fair. It’s obviously a good concept to us as consumers, but AT&T is already mounting legal opposition, and I’d like to think they’ve seen this coming, in its current form. If so, new regulations of any sort will likely be met with strong opposition. Let’s just hope whatever Wheeler’s actual proposal includes, carriers and Internet providers are amiable enough to carry on in a positive direction.