Tom Wheeler Responds To Congressional Letters On Reclassification And Muni-Broadband; Doesn't Say Much
from the repeating-himself dept
As I stated in the June 30. 2014, letter to you, our Notice proposes that the Section 706 framework set forth by the court provides us with the tools we need to adopt and implement robust and enforceable Open Internet rules. However. the Commission is also seriously considering moving forward to adopt rules using Title II of the Communications Act as the foundation for our legal authority. The Notice asks specific questions about Title II. including whether the Commission should 1) revisit its classification of Broadband Internet Access as an information service; or 2) separately identify and classify as a telecommunications service a service that "broadband providers . . . furnish to edge providers," as proposed by Mozilla in a May 5. 2014, Petition filed with the agency. The Notice seeks comment on the benefits of both Section 706 and Title II, including the benefits of one approach over the other, to ensure the Internet remains an open platform for innovation and expression.In other words, nothing new at all. In fact, the response is frustratingly circular. Wheeler asked for feedback on whether the FCC should reclassify, and these Senators said, "Hell yes, you should reclassify," even explaining why reclassifying is the only way for the FCC to "put truly effective open Internet rules on the books," and Wheeler's response was, "Yes, we've asked people to tell us what they think of Title II." It's a complete brush off in someways. Imagine asking your significant other what you should have for dinner, and they explain why it makes sense to have fish for dinner, and you respond with "Yes, I am asking people for options, and fish is one of them," rather than actually responding to the direct explanation as to why fish is the answer. It would be pretty obvious that you're not really paying attention and don't want fish.
The second letter comes from a bunch of Representatives in the House who idiotically flipped out over Wheeler's announced plans to preempt questionable state laws that block municipal broadband. These laws are almost always driven entirely by the big broadband companies, and local politicians have even admitted that they're just doing the bidding of folks from the big broadband providers. The letter comes from the same folks in Congress, led by Marsha Blackburn, who has already helped pass an appropriations amendment that would block Wheeler's plans.
Wheeler's response here is a bit stronger and more direct. He points out that the FCC has the authority to promote competitive broadband markets, and if that means trampling on big broadband lobbying efforts that restrict competition, that's well within the FCC's authority. He also points out that for all of Blackburn's supposed "concern" about the federal government overruling "local" governments, she doesn't seem to have a problem with state governments blatantly blocking municipal governments from doing what they want.
[M]any states have enacted laws that place a range of restrictions on communities' ability to make their own decisions about their own future. There is reason to believe that these laws have the effect of limiting competition in those areas, contrary to almost two decades of bipartisan federal communications policy that is focused on encouraging competition. I respect the important role of state governments in our federal system, but I also know that state laws which directly conflict with critical federal laws and policy may be subject to preemption in appropriate circumstances. I recognize that federal preemption is not a step to be taken and must be done only after careful consideration of all relevant legal and policy issues.The rest of the letter is him basically repeating that there will be lots of "careful consideration" before any move is actually taken.
It's almost as if Wheeler doesn't want to reveal what he's going to do until he does it (shocking, I know). At this point, it's not worth making too much of either letter, other than noting that Wheeler is sending responses that basically repeat the same thing he's been saying all along. And that takes us back to the point that many of us have been raising about the FCC for over a decade. It does an awful lot of talking, but rarely does much of substance. The real question here is if the Wheeler FCC will stand up and do something beyond a lot of talking.