THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 05, 2015
FCC chair proposes aggressive net neutrality rules; could help connections in rural areas
In a move that could increase high-speed Internet availability in rural areas while also protecting small businesses, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on Wednesday proposed much more aggressive net-neutrality rules than expected, saying that rules will place “broadband Internet providers such as Comcast and Verizon Wireless under a stricter regulatory regime” that will ensure consumers have access to an open Internet, Brian Fung reports for The Washington Post. FCC is expected to vote on the rules on Feb. 26.
“Under the new regime, broadband providers would be explicitly banned from blocking content or creating fast lanes for Web services that can pay for preferential treatment into American homes,” Fung writes. “The draft rules seek to impose a modified version of Title II, which was originally written to regulate telephone companies,” keeping rules that that “allow the FCC to: enforce consumer privacy rules; extract funds from Internet providers to help subsidize services for rural Americans, educators and the poor; and make sure services such as Google Fiber can build new broadband pipes more easily, according to people familiar with the plan.” (Wall Street Journal graphic)
Broadband Internet providers and supporters immediately labeled the rules unnecessary and vowed to fight the rules, Roger Yu and Mike Snider report for USA Today. Verizon’s deputy general counsel Michael Glover called the proposed rules “unnecessary because all participants in the Internet ecosystem support an open Internet. It is counterproductive because heavy regulation of the Internet will create uncertainty and chill investment among the many players.”
But supporters “say stringent rules are needed, because the cable industry is poised for consolidation and many consumers contend with local monopolies in broadband Internet service,” Yu and Snider write. “Without specific rules, ISPs would be tempted to ban, slow down or seek payment from content providers that compete with a company that has an affiliation or is owned by the Internet provider, they argue. For example, Comcast, which is trying to buy Time Warner Cable, also owns NBC Universal, which has plans to expand streaming shows.”
One of the strangest things about Wheeler’s aggressive approach is that only a few months ago he seemed ready to side with cable operators. That was before President Obama intervened, nudging Wheeler toward supporting a more open Internet, Gautham Nagesh and Brody Mullins report for The Wall Street Journal.
“The prod from Obama came after an unusual, secretive effort inside the White House, led by two aides who built a case for the principle known as ‘net neutrality’ through dozens of meetings with online activists, Web startups and traditional telecommunications companies,” Nagesh and Mullins write. “Acting like a parallel version of the FCC itself, R. David Edelman and Tom Power listened as Etsy Inc., Kickstarter Inc., Yahoo Inc.’s Tumblr and other companies insisted that utility-like rules were needed to help small companies and entrepreneurs compete online, people involved in the process say.”
Written by Tim Mandell