FCC's Tom Wheeler Says He'll Ask For Public Comment On Whether It's Appropriate To Reclassify Broadband
from the well-now-it-gets-a-bit-more-interesting dept
This morning, a bunch of Senators joined with over 150 internet companies and over 100 venture capitalists to ask the FCC’s Tom Wheeler not to make a big mistake with his “open internet” rules and enable a multi-tier internet, where broadband companies with tremendous market power can create fast lanes.
Wheeler has now responded to that original letter from over 150 internet companies (disclosure: we were one of the companies that signed that letter). While reiterating his previously stated promises that he really wants to protect an open internet, he also dropped this tidbit:
The item we will vote on next week seeks input on the best way to accommodate this goal. We will specifically ask whether Title II or Section 706 of the Communications Act is the best way to address the matter of Internet openness.
That’s a bit of a shift. All indications before were that, at this stage, the focus was entirely on Section 706, with Wheeler merely promising to hang onto Title II in his back pocket. Putting it up front and center, and asking for public comment on the use of Title II reclassification (which would make broadband providers subject to common carrier rules) is a big deal. Wheeler further stated that he’s really committed to this based on his own earlier experiences. While many have (rightfully) pointed out that Wheeler is a former cable industry lobbyist, he notes that he’s also been on the other side of networks with monopolistic powers:
As an entrepreneur who started companies that offered new programs and services to cable companies, I was subject to being blocked from access to cable networks. It is an experience that made me especially wary of the power of closed networks to innovate on their own agenda to the detriment of small entrepreneurs.
To a very large extent, this experience has been the backbone of my long-time support for the Open Internet. It is the openness of the Internet that makes it special. My job at the FCC is to protect that openness, and the innovation and expression it allows to flourish.
Of course, some of his previous statements have suggested that he still doesn’t understand the full nature of the problem (interconnection and the lack of competition). So it remains to be seen what really happens. However, it’s encouraging to see that Wheeler seems to be progressively moving closer to making Title II a legitimate option.
Of course, as that gets closer and closer to the table, the insane freakout from broadband providers and their (very powerful) lobbyists will reach a fever pitch. This fight is far from over, but it’s getting more interesting day by day.