Wired; the Washington Post

FCC Chairman Wheeler Declares that He Backs Net Neutrality and Why He Thinks the Internet Needs to be Regulated Like a Public Utility To Do So

Feb 4, 2015  •  Post A Comment

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler explained his reasoning in an opinion piece that was published by Wired magazine online today.

In his piece, the Chairman writes, “Broadband network operators have an understandable motivation to manage their network to maximize their business interests. But their actions may not always be optimal for network users. The Congress gave the FCC broad authority to update its rules to reflect changes in technology and marketplace behavior in a way that protects consumers.”

Later in his essay Wheeler notes, “Originally, I believed that the FCC could assure internet openness through a determination of “commercial reasonableness” under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. While a recent court decision seemed to draw a roadmap for using this approach, I became concerned that this relatively new concept might, down the road, be interpreted to mean what is reasonable for commercial interests, not consumers.

”That is why I am proposing that the FCC use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections.

“Using this authority, I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. I propose to fully apply—for the first time ever—those bright-line rules to mobile broadband. My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.”

To explain this change, we suggest you check out an excellent article written a year ago by Brian Fung, the tech reporter for the Washington Post.

Wrote Fung: “You could say the FCC’s authority to regulate communications technology is spread across different buckets. One bucket tends to be heavily regulated, and it’s in this category we find phone companies and cellular companies. Industry people call this bucket Title II, after the part of the Telecommunications Act that gives the agency its authority to regulate telecom services.

“Then there’s another bucket, the one that industries like better because the FCC can’t regulate it as heavily. This bucket covers what are called “information services,” a loosely defined term covered under Title I of the law.

“Not long after the dot-com bust, the FCC decided to classify Internet service providers (ISPs) as Title I information services. It seemed to make sense at the time; after all, what does a cable modem do but give people access to a huge repository of networked knowledge?”

However, a year ago January a court ruling in a case brought against the FCC by Verizon, changed everything. As Fung wrote “In its opinion, the D.C. Court ruled that the FCC had tried to limit broadband providers with what looked awfully like Title II-style regulation. Problem is, the FCC can’t use its Title II authority to regulate businesses that are classified under Title I.”

Given the importance of this issue we urge you to click on the links, above, to the articles discussed, and read the entire original pieces.




  1. Thus spending by network providers into their networks drops to $0.

    Why bother spending all that money on infrastructure improvements only so Netflix can suck up all the bandwidth and you don’t make a dime more?

    Time to design and implement the next generation of proprietary network protocols and get out of the ISP business.

  2. I am shocked! I never for one moment thought that the former shill for the cable industry would ever recommend that internet access would be treated like a utility, or title II. This is actually good for consumers, and won’t be all that bad for ISPs, either, other than not being able to charge you extra if you use netflix or youtube a lot, or throttling back in speed from websites or Netflix or Youtube.

    I think Bill is a little misguided; utilities do just fine. Electricity still flows out of your outlets, water still comes out of your tap, gas still comes out of your stove’s burners, and the internet will get along just fine, too. And if you still have a land line telephone, it’s still the most reliable method of voice communication. (My land line has NEVER dropped a call.) The difference here is, should for example, Comcast let its equipment go to crap (kinda is already anyway) to the point where it doesn’t work well, people can change their internet provider. In order to maintain their current customers and garner new ones will still foster maintenance and improvement of their infrastructure and products.

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