Tom Wheeler Submitting New FCC Net Neutrality Rules – Vote Comes in February

Posted by at 11:44 am on January 5, 2015

FCC LogoUS Federal Communications Chairman commissioner Tom Wheeler is reportedly planning on unveiling a new set of net neutrality rules in the beginning of February. The new rules which are said to be more aggressive than originally proposed, which should incorporate feedback from the public comment process, should come to a vote at the February 26 meeting.

Title II regulation of broadband would apply oversight to ISPs similar to that of utilities, such as water and power. While the ISPs and some governmental supporters believe the FCC may not even have this power, if implemented US broadband access would be more tightly monitored for abuses, predatory pricing, and other anti-consumer measures — which have escalated in recent years, with the result of Americans paying more money for less service than is widely seen in most other countries. Additionally, the ISPs would be subject to independent ombudsmen, deciding if the companies were taking advantage of their power over consumers.

President Obama said that he believes “the FCC should create a new set of rules protecting net neutrality, and ensuring that neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online. The rules I am asking for are simple, common-sense steps that reflect the Internet you and I use everyday, and that some Internet Service Providers already observe.” The president has since outright endorsed Title II regulation of the ISPs.

Most Republicans and corporate Internet Service Providers decry the possibility of Title II legislation, while smaller ISPs and Democrats are broadly in favor of codifying, at some level, true net neutrality. AT&T, taking the opposite view, writes that “going backwards 80 years to the world of utility regulation would represent a tragic step in the wrong direction. Utility regulation would strangle investment, hobble innovation, and put government regulators in charge of nearly every aspect of Internet-based services,” but did not offer any evidence that such regulation would actually harm consumers compared to the status quo. Google has recently noted that full Title II regulation would give it access to telephone poles, significantly cutting back on infrastructure needed for Google Fiber build-outs.

The new FCC timetable on submission and voting would shut down any further public discussion of the Chairman’s Title II suggestion that would be considered by the FCC. Republican leadership has threatened legislation to hamstring the FCC’s power to induce Title II regulation, and the quicker timetable may make this block difficult or impossible to achieve.

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