Despite fierce and widespread opposition, FCC moves forward with plan to do worse than nothing on net neutrality

by Andrew Selbst, guest blogger

A few weeks ago, the FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed a new “net neutrality” plan which is clearly anything but. While the new proposal would prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from blocking competitors’ websites outright, it would also permit ISPs to make agreements with services such as Netflix for internet “fast lanes,” so that the ISPs can prioritize their traffic in exchange for cash. Of course, any proposal that allows ISPs to offer fast lanes means that the other services that cannot afford to pay, such as smaller startups and journalism outlets, will receive slow lanes by comparison. 

Yesterday, despite widespread opposition from both sides of the political aisle, a slew of tech companies, and the protestors literally camped outside of the FCC, the Commission moved forward with the proposal. While Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has voiced some opposition to the plan, wishing Chairman Wheeler had delayed the decision to continue talking with consumers, the vote passed 3-2 along party lines to open the proposed rules for comment.

Thus, the FCC is currently seeking public comments about both the fast lane policy and the legal authority (or lack thereof) that the Commission has to promulgate these rules under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act. In response to the opposition, Chairman Wheeler did expand the scope of the desired comments to include the possibility of reclassification under Title II of the Communications Act. (The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is here.) As I said in my previous post on the topic, any attempt to impose net neutrality without reclassifying is doomed to failure. Unfortunately, the lesson Chairman Wheeler seems to have taken away from this fact is that net neutrality should be abandoned, not that the FCC should reclassify broadband services. Hopefully he can be convinced otherwise by the torrent of comments he is sure to receive in the next sixty days.

The initial comment period is open until July 15. If you wish to submit a comment on this plan, this post tells you how. For other possible kinds of action, including phone calls and letters, go here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *