“Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler revealed Wednesday that he’ll propose applying decades-old communications rules to Internet service providers to ensure that the Internet remains open to all legal content, an option that cable companies and other ISPs had feared and fought against vigorously,” Roger Yu and Mike Snider report for USA Today. “Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler revealed Wednesday that he’ll propose applying decades-old communications rules to Internet service providers to ensure that the Internet remains open to all legal content, an option that cable companies and other ISPs had feared and fought against vigorously”
“Wheeler’s proposal would mostly ban content providers from paying cable Internet companies, phone companies and wireless carriers to buy faster Internet ‘lanes’ for their service, a practice known as ‘paid prioritization.’ ISPs also specifically will be prohibited from blocking or deliberately slowing (‘throttling’) access to legal content,” Yu and Snider report. “Wheeler’s proposal will allow exceptions to Title II requirements and refrain from some provisions that don’t apply to ISPs. To encourage Internet providers to continue to invest, Wheeler also said he’ll ‘modernize’ Title II and ‘tailor it for the 21st century.'”
“The cable industry saw this move coming. In a blog post late Monday, AT&T vice president for federal regulatory Hank Hultquist said the company will likely sue if Title II was applied. ‘Those who oppose efforts at compromise because they assume Title II rests on bulletproof legal theories are only deceiving themselves,” he wrote,'” Yu and Snider report. “Several lawmakers in Congress have introduced legislation that would regulate the Internet without treating ISPs as public utilities and that should be sufficient, Glover argued. ‘It is unnecessary because all participants in the Internet ecosystem support an open Internet,’ he said. ‘It is counterproductive because heavy regulation of the Internet will create uncertainty and chill investment among the many players.'”
“Internet providers say tighter regulations could stifle innovation and prevent further investment. Title II allows the FCC to dictate pricing that ISPs charge consumers and content providers, as well as obligating ISPs to open their back-end networks to content providers and third-party content delivery companies. It could also require ISPs to sell portions of their networks to resellers and require them to file reams of documents and report cards on their quality of service and pricing structures,” Yu and Snider report. “Wheeler will circulate his proposal to other commissioners on Thursday with a vote scheduled for Feb. 26.”
Read more in the full article here.
“David J. Farber is among those who have misgivings about going the Title II route. Mr. Farber helped design parts of the Internet, served on the board of the Internet Society and is a former chief technologist of the F.C.C.,” Steve Lohr reports for The New York Times. “‘My fear,’ Mr. Farber said, ‘is that regulating the Internet like a telecommunications service potentially opens a Pandora’s box.'”
“This commission, said Mr. Farber, a professor of computer science and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, may well have no intention of deploying the broader powers of Title II. But, he added, there is no guarantee that future commissions will be similarly restrained,” Lohr reports. “Information services, Mr. Farber noted, are relatively free of taxes, while telecommunications services are not, especially at the state level. Telecommunications regulation, Mr. Farber said, is a step toward a more rigid regime at odds with the freewheeling innovation of the Internet economy.”
Read more in the full article here.
Citizens Against Government Waste has issued the following statement, verbatim:
Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today reacted to the release of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to regulate the Internet and his op-ed in Wired, which promotes using antiquated common carrier regulations under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934 for the Internet. In short, Chairman Wheeler plans to treat the Internet like a dial-up telephone, which will hinder innovation and raise costs.
The Communications Act of 1934 created the foundation for regulating the telephone industry through common carrier rules and interconnection rate schemes. The law also established the Federal Communications Commission as the regulator body for the telecommunications industry. As technology developed, amendments to the Act were adopted, the most recent of which was the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Congress is currently working on modernizing the law, which is one of many reasons why the FCC should not act to promulgate regulations.
The phenomenal success of everything associated with the Internet is that it operates in an open, free manner that encourages growth and innovation. If Chairman Wheeler’s proposal is adopted, it will inhibit future technological advances by treating innovators in telecommunications and technology like plain old wireline telephone companies.
Even though the Chairman’s plan calls for forbearing, or refraining, from imposing provisions of Title II that are not relevant to broadband services, such a decision is at the discretion of the FCC. The plan at least relieves providers from contributing to the Universal Service fund and defers to the congressional moratorium on Internet taxes.
However, some states are preparing to implement state fees on broadband services based on the FCC’s proposed reclassification, as noted by Vermont Telecommunications Director Jim Porter, who said that it would give the state “the ability to assess a universal service fee on broadband services.” According to the Progressive Policy Institute, the changes being proposed by Chairman Wheeler could increase the average state and local fees imposed on wireline and wireless subscribers between $67 and $72 per year, along with an increase in federal fees of $17 per year. This constitutes a $15 billion increase in new user fees to consumers.
It appears that Chairman Wheeler is using forbearance in an attempt to both mollify the strong objections to his proposed regulation of the Internet and give opponents of proposed reform legislation in Congress another excuse to object to such efforts. Forbearance can be changed at any time, and is not an appropriate way to regulate any industry.
“Congress gave the FCC the authority to regulate the rules, not re-write the law through manipulation, forbearance and a flimsy analysis of court decisions,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz. “It is unfortunately that Chairman Wheeler wants his agency to intrude further into Americans’ daily lives and interfere with the most successful component of the U.S. economy. Once again, and typical of the Obama administration, ‘government knows best.’ As Congress considers legislation to modernize telecommunications laws, strong consideration should be given to whether the FCC is doing more harm than good and should be altered or eliminated altogether. At the very least, a biannual reauthorization of the agency is in order so that it will be required to justify its existence on a regular basis.”
Source: Citizens Against Government Waste
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