The term is key: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says in a blog post that the ability to bar “commercially unreasonable” practices empowers the agency — in a plan he will begin to circulate — to crack down on Internet service providers that discriminate against some content providers. But open Internet advocates fear it’s too squishy, and could allow ISPs to create tiers of service that enable some content providers (Netflix or HBO GO, perhaps) to pay for speedy transmissions. Wheeler hopes to “conclude this proceeding and have enforceable rules by the end of the year.” The plan he will begin to circulate will look at net neutrality violations on a case-by-case basis, an adjustment needed to meet the objections that the D.C. Court of Appeals raised in January when it remanded the FCC’s previous net neutrality rules. But he vigorously objects to the “great deal of misinformation” that characterized his proposal as an effort to gut the principle of open Internet by allowing companies to pay for speedier service. His plan “would establish that behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted,” he says. The court said that the FCC could stop practices it deems not ” commercially reasonable” — and he says that his plan will “establish a high bar for what is ‘commercially reasonable.’”
Will Netflix end up challenging Comcast’s $45.2B deal to buy Time Warner Cable? It didn’t look that way last month when they made what they described at the time as a “mutually beneficial” interconnection deal that involved Netflix payments to Comcast. …
In this week’s podcast, Deadline’s Executive Editor David Lieberman and host David Bloom examine whether Facebook paid too much with its $19 billion purchase of messaging service WhatsApp, ponder whether anyone should pay for the maker of blockbuster mobile game Candy Crush Saga now that it’s filed for an IPO, consider the impact of the FCC’s replacement net-neutrality rules and look at the real motivations behind the clamor for Google Fiber.
Folks who have a stake in FCC activities are beginning to respond to Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan to revive the agency’s net neutrality rules. Consumer groups for the most part applaud his ambition, but fear that his effort will fall short unless the FCC reclassifies broadband as a regulated common carrier service — it’s now deemed a largely unregulated information service. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, one of the agency’s two Republican members, says there’s no need for regulation calling net neutrality “a solution in search of a problem.” And industry groups are supportive, but non-committal. Here’s where they stand. We’ve highlighted the key lines, and will add to the collection as more come in.
Chairman Tom Wheeler will try to revive the FCC‘s net neutrality regulations with a view that a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in DC last month upheld the agency’s right to set rules for the Internet, even as it vacated much of the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order. Verizon had appealed the order, saying that regulators overstepped their authority. The FCC will not challenge the Appeals Court decision, but today the agency will open a docket seeking public comment on Wheeler’s proposals — expected to be formalized by summer. He wants to ban service providers from blocking any legal service. The court said that the FCC had not adequately justified that condition in its 2010 order. He also would ban discrimination — for example, offering some services at faster speeds than others — and require ISPs to be transparent about their network practices. While the court agreed with the FCC’s view that it has some rights to govern the Internet, justices also said that the agency tied its hands a decade ago when it defined broadband as a lightly regulated information service as opposed to a phone-like common carrier service. If the FCC runs into trouble with new rules, Wheeler will keep open the option of asking the FCC to change its mind and classify the Internet as a common carrier, a service that — from a legal perspective — is so important that it needs to be regulated. In addition, Wheeler hopes to promote consumer options by overruling state laws that bar cities and towns from creating public Internet services that might compete with private ones.
“We’re ready to intervene,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said this week about the new AT&T plan that has raised the hackles of net neutrality advocates. But that’s short of a full-fledged commitment to deal with an issue that media and entertainment companies will closely monitor. The wireless carrier told an audience at the International CES confab that it will begin to let content providers pick up the tab for some of their 4G transmissions. It’s “similar to 1-800 phone numbers or free shipping for Internet commerce,” AT&T says. In theory, that could range from a studio paying data costs for mobile device users to watch a movie trailer — to ESPN or Netflix helping people to watch their programming. The idea is “a win-win for customers and businesses,” says AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega. Net neutrality advocates counter that AT&T’s plan would give well-funded industry giants a huge advantage over challengers in an environment where companies would effectively have to pay in order to reach mobile device users. “In addition to being a ripoff for both consumers and content creators, AT&T’s plan erects a massive barrier in front of anyone hoping to be the next big thing online,” says Public Knowledge Acting Co-President Michael Weinberg.
Tom Wheeler gave students at Ohio State University a lesson in political savvy today in his first policy speech since he became FCC chairman last month. His address alternately preached the virtues of small government, and public interest advocacy — especially on the controversial question of the FCC’s role in regulating the Web. “What the Internet does is an activity where policy makers must be judiciously prudent and should not be involved,” he says. But the longtime industry lawyer and former lobbyist left the FCC a lot of wiggle room to advance what he calls the “Network Compact” to promote communications accessibility, interconnection, and public safety and security. His idea of accessibility “means the ability of [Internet] users to access all lawful content on a network,” he says — adding that’s why the FCC “adopted enforceable rules to preserve the Open Internet.” The FCC needs to be the public’s representative in a transition to what he calls “the fourth network revolution” following the development of the printing press, railroads, and the telegraph. The Internet “is not a law-free zone. It depends upon standards of conduct. And it depends on the ability of the government to intervene in the event of aggravated circumstances.”
A Republican effort to overturn the FCC’s net neutrality rules in the Senate was shot down today, two days after President Obama vowed to veto any such override. The regulations are set to take effect on November 20. Senate …
This would be just the third veto Barack Obama has made, but the White House says today that he’ll go there if the Senate on Thursday endorses a bill to upend the FCC’s net neutrality rules. The resolution to scrap the regulations — which are due to take effect on November 20 — is similar to one that the House passed in April. The Senate vote could be close: Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s bill has 42 co-sponsors. Supporters include Maine Republican Olympia Snowe, who favors net neutrality but says the issue should be decided by Congress — not the FCC. In today’s “Statement of Administration Policy,” the White House says that “the open Internet enables entrepreneurs to create new services without fear of undue discrimination by network providers.” For example, Comcast wouldn’t be able to favor transmissions over its broadband lines for a service it likes, such as Hulu, over those of a rival such as Netflix. The administration says that disapproval of net neutrality would “threaten the very foundations of innovation in the Internet economy and the democratic spirit that has made the Internet a force for social progress around the world.” If the Senate passes the bill, then the administration statement says “his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the Resolution.”
FCC lawyers probably have more to fear from Verizon’s expected court challenge to the regulatory agency’s net neutrality rules. The phone company will argue that the FCC doesn’t have the legal authority to regulate Internet services. Still, …