from the don't-always-believe-what-you-read dept
A reminder: you can’t always believe what you read on these here interwebs. Yesterday, an article appeared on The Hill which was originally titled “Democratic FCC commissioner balks at net neutrality rules” and claimed that one of the other FCC commissioners was looking to “water down” Tom Wheeler’s net neutrality plans. Cue a total freakout — especially on Reddit, where people started weaving complex conspiracy theories about how Clyburn was bought and paid for by Time Warner (which is, um, somewhat laughable if you know much about Clyburn). The piece on the Hill, by reporter Julian Hattem, appears to have totally misread what is actually happening, leading to totally unnecessary freakouts. In fact, after many people pointed this out, it appears that The Hill has changed its original headline so that it now reads “Eleventh-hour drama for net neutrality.” And it’s not even that dramatic. So, hey, Reddit, calm down!
What’s actually happening is a bit complex, but Clyburn’s concern is not just a reasonable one, it’s one that’s actually being raised by just about everyone on all sides of the debate. Believe it or not, Clyburn’s suggestion is actually supported by everyone from Free Press to Google to AT&T. So calm down.
Remember that old “hybrid plan” that Tom Wheeler had experimentally floated a few months ago? The one that created an entirely new class of services, in which he tried to divide broadband providers into a new classification known as “sender side” so that he could issue rules for that new class of services, rather than having to “reclassify” broadband under Title II? Those rules that everyone hated? Well, it appears that after being convinced to actually go to full reclassification, Wheeler left in a bit of those rules as a sort of “in the alternative” justification for his new rules. However, just as pretty much everyone argued when the hybrid plan was floated, this attempt to create a new classification for “sender side” providers is fraught with serious legal problems, and would create a huge headache.
A few weeks ago, Free Press raised these concerns with the FCC. And last week, Google also raised similar concerns, pointing out that trying to split the baby in this way would also lead some ISPs to believing they could switch to a “sender pays” model of service, which would actually undermine net neutrality in very serious ways. And, just in case you thought this was only a concern from net neutrality supporters, AT&T raised the same concern just last week as well, listing out four separate reasons why the FCC couldn’t magically create this newly defined service.
From what nearly everyone has been saying, Clyburn’s request to Wheeler is to fix this, and get rid of the remnants of his bad hybrid rules, and keep the rules much more cleanly focused on reclassification. I’ve spoken with numerous folks in and around the FCC about all of this and they all note that this should actually make the net neutrality rules better and less susceptible to a legal challenge. In fact, many are claiming this makes the rules stronger when it comes to preventing interconnection disputes, which is where many of the big net neutrality fights have migrated.
So, to everyone freaking out that Clyburn is trying to weaken the rules: calm down. It doesn’t appear to be happening. In fact, it’s the opposite. You can’t always believe what you read on the internet, especially when it comes to telco policy.