Wheeler lays out latest Open Internet ideas in plea to critics
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler took to the FCC website's blog Tuesday in a continued attempt to counter criticism of the commission's soon-to-be-released net neutrality revisions. Calling some industry analysts' and experts' commentary on the proposed changes "misinformed," Wheeler said the proposal was not a final decision, but instead a "formal request for input" on Open Internet rules.
He also emphasized that the delay in implementing rules was having a negative effect on companies doing business via the Internet.
"Today Internet Openness is being decided on an ad hoc basis by big companies. Further delay will only exacerbate this problem," Wheeler wrote. "The NPRM is seeking input on the best way to protect and promote the Open Internet."
Pointing out that net neutrality rules have been debated--or tied up in court--for ten years now, Wheeler said the commission is looking for some sort of rule it can put in force. "We are asking for comment on a proposed a course of action that could result in an enforceable rule rather than continuing the debate over our legal authority that has so far produced nothing of permanence for the Internet."
He also expanded his explanation of what constitutes a "commercially reasonable" standard, in the current draft's definition, saying that anything that creates a "fast lane" that degrades service for consumers and companies "would be shut down."
Karl Bode of DSL Reports was critical of the latest post's claims that the revised Open Internet order would be tough and enforceable. "Except that it won't. The old rules had an ocean of intentional loopholes and don't cover wireless--just like the new rules," he wrote. "As many have pointed out, Wheeler's moves actually create more uncertainty as the agency continues to try and use Section 706 of the Communications Act in a way that's not particularly legally defensible."
He called the commissioner's examples of commercially unreasonable behavior vague. "Wheeler's comments to date strongly suggest his threshold for what's going to be considered anti-competitive behavior will be stratospherically-high, and as is the case now--carriers will still be able to get away with anti-competitive behavior provided they're relatively clever about it."
The FCC has seen a rash of criticism since The Wall Street Journal broke a story detailing the latest Open Internet revision last week. GigaOM's Stacey Higginbotham was particularly critical. "The FCC should man up and say exactly what it is doing here: It is implementing a double-sided market for the internet that could allow businesses to enter into commercial relationships with ISPs--who do not operate in a competitive market in the U.S.--for faster delivery of their content."
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