FCC Chairman Wheeler is expected to unveil a new plan for Net Neutrality regulations in the coming weeks. If reports prove correct, the new rules would reclassify broadband as a Title II service, applying regulations to broadband and mobile internet that some have called “utility-style”.
The cable industry has vigorously opposed this approach for years, arguing that Title II would constrain the development and deployment of broadband. Meanwhile, wireless carriers believe Title II would be wholly inappropriate for mobile. At the same time, with a newly won majority in the House and Senate, Republicans may even try to proactively move legislation to head off the FCC’s efforts.
While the FCC’s intent is to require ISPs to treat all web traffic equally, with no blocking and no throttling, and to ensure that consumers have unfettered and non-discriminatory access to the internet – a laudable goal. The Chairman’s proposal is not likely to be black and white. The FCC could broadly apply Title II while also providing specific relief (or “forbearance”) from certain requirements and exempting certain parts of the ecosystem. Indeed, the FCC is widely expected to grant forbearance with regard to pricing – meaning they won’t regulate or set prices for broadband internet access. Also, the FCC has suggested that there may be instances in which prioritization of certain content may be acceptable. We would also suggest that–as we argued in our comments to the FCC–the regulations should not extend to websites or edge providers since the federal government should not be in the business of regulating content creation or distribution.
The FCC should carefully craft rules that will allow the Internet to continue serving as the open platform that has been its defining characteristic. It is critical that the FCC rules allow for the next generation of content creators to flourish and ensure that consumers can continue to enjoy access to all the content and services they demand and expect.