Tom Wheeler Revising His Net Neutrality Plans… But Not Actually Fixing Them

from the keep-pushing dept

So, this seemed pretty likely given FCC boss Tom Wheeler’s continued shift in the way he describes his “open internet” net neutrality rules in the face of an awful lot of criticism, but the WSJ reported this weekend that Wheeler has been spending the last few days “revising” the rules that he’s set to release this week. Each time Wheeler has spoken about this, he’s inched slightly closer to actually putting Title II reclassification (making broadband providers common carriers) on the table, though very few people actually believe he’ll do that. While he’d previously suggested that reclassification was a reserve back pocket option if his original rules didn’t work, on Friday, he said that reclassification would be one possibility that he wanted people to comment on once the new proposal was released.

So it’s good to see Wheeler doing some last minute revising — but it appears that he’s still trying to thread the needle with some “middle ground” approaches, in which he allows for some forms of paid prioritization. As multiple people have pointed out, if you do that, it’s no longer a net neutrality proposal:

In the new draft, Mr. Wheeler is sticking to the same basic approach but will include language that would make clear that the FCC will scrutinize the deals to make sure that the broadband providers don’t unfairly put nonpaying companies’ content at a disadvantage, according to an agency official.

The official said the draft would also seek comment on whether such agreements, called “paid prioritization,” should be banned outright, and look to prohibit the big broadband companies, such as Comcast Corp. and AT&T Inc., from doing deals with some content companies on terms that they aren’t offering to others.

Mr. Wheeler’s language will also invite comments on whether broadband Internet service should be considered a public utility, which would subject it to greater regulation. The FCC has so far not reclassified broadband as a utility, and providers have fiercely opposed such a move, saying it would cause innovation and investment to collapse

So it appears that his new plan is to more explicitly put the different plans out for comment, without actually really endorsing anything, and letting AT&T and Comcast’s lobbyists ratchet up the rhetoric war. What he appears to be proposing is a useless “third way” option, which everyone will hate, while letting everyone fight about the other options. In other words: it’s more of the same from the FCC.

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Comments on “Tom Wheeler Revising His Net Neutrality Plans… But Not Actually Fixing Them”

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Machin Shin (profile) says:


“FCC will scrutinize the deals to make sure that the broadband providers don’t unfairly put nonpaying companies’ content at a disadvantage, according to an agency official.”

I have been reading this story several places today and always find myself wondering. How many drugs do you have to use before that statement makes sense?

Offering a “fast lane” in and of itself puts nonpaying companies at a disadvantage. It also is misleading. The internet is not like a highway. They are not going to build a separate “lane” for going fast. They instead will do more like the “fast pass” tickets at theme parks. So those of us stuck in the “Slow lane” will just have to wait longer because other people cut to the front of the line.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What?

I have been reading this story several places today and always find myself wondering. How many drugs do you have to use before that statement makes sense?

Politicians find that such statement make sense without any chemical assistance. It meets political needs perfectly, they can claim they are on the same side as any audience that they are speaking to.

Anonymous Coward says:

wheeler cant do what he’s been advised to do because he cant just poo poo off the industries he was lobbying for and he needs to make his own mark. the fact that he will probably make an almighty fuck up instead of taking notice of those who obviously have much greater knowledge than him but unfortunately dont have the power. and dont forget he was, if i remember correctly, employed by Obama so he’s got to do what the number 1 tells him, even if it isn’t directly, so as to keep the old sponsoring coming on down from Hollywood etc!!

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Tactic vs Strategy

There is a very slight chance that with three proposals out there, he is playing the Streisand game. Let the silliness ensue and become real public. Then allow certain factions to Streisand themselves out of the game.

In the end though, I believe he will weasel and pick the ‘least worst’, rather than the ‘fix the system’ choice.

Coises (profile) says:

Focus on the last mile, not the Internet

Focus on the last mile, not the Internet

Two things (still) bother me:

1. Everybody is worried about ?fast lanes.? Maybe… I?m concerned that no one seems to be thinking about data caps.

?Oh, your service offers unlimited access to beautiful, high definition movies that weigh in at about 4GB an hour? Well, we cap our users at 80GB/month, so if they don?t do anything else on the Internet, they can watch one every three days or so before we start threatening to cancel their account. Of course, we could work out a deal where traffic from *your* service is exempt…?

Combine that with special peering arrangements, and it could look ?commercially reasonable.?

2. Considering what a bang-up job the FCC has done with broadcast TV, radio, etc., the idea of reclassification of broadband Internet service makes me think, ?Be careful what you wish for.? What should be reclassified is the last mile?regardless of whether it?s carrying ?cable-TV? channels, video-on-demand, voice communication, Internet traffic or something we haven?t even invented yet. Those who operate the physical infrastructure that almost unavoidably monopolizes the best path connecting citizens in their homes to the rest of the world are a prime candidate for tough regulation; the Internet is not, and should be left the hell alone.

If that requires forcing physical infrastructure providers to be separate from ISPs and content providers… sounds good to me.

(However, equal access rules made DSL ISPs viable until the FCC dropped them in 2005. Resurrecting those rules and applying them to all forms of last mile connection, for all forms of data that are technologically feasible on the connection in question, might be a good start.)

Then, forget worrying about paid prioritization or data caps (and probably a few other things we haven?t thought of yet). If people have a real choice (of ISPs), they can decide what works for them. It?s the last mile monopoly that makes everything else a problem. The last mile can, and should, be content-agnostic.

Jose_X (profile) says:

From the Speakers desk.. (apparently fast lanes are good for jobs)

House GOP Leaders: Proposed ?Net Neutrality? Regulations Would Jeopardize Innovation & Job Creation

House Republican leaders sent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler a letter today urging the commission to drop consideration of new federal ?net neutrality? regulations that would undermine a free and open Internet and hurt our economy at the same time.

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