Coverage Roundup: FCC Chairman Will Propose “Strongest Open Internet Protections Ever”
UPDATED February 4, 2014 We’ve added (below) a link to a just released statement by ALA President Courtney Young on the Wheeler announcement.
UPDATED At the bottom of this post we’ve embedded a fact sheet about the proposal from the FCC.
From a Column by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Published on Wired.com:
This week, I will circulate to the members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed new rules to preserve the internet as an open platform for innovation and free expression. This proposal is rooted in long-standing regulatory principles, marketplace experience, and public input received over the last several months.
I am proposing that the FCC use its Title II authority [regulate the Internet as a telecommunications service] 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. [Our emphasis] 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 preserve incentives for broadband operators to invest in their networks, my proposal will modernize Title II, tailoring it for the 21st century, in order to provide returns necessary to construct competitive networks. For example, there will be no rate regulation, no tariffs, no last-mile unbundling.
The commission will vote on the proposal at their Feb. 26th meeting.
Read the Complete Article
Coverage and Reaction
Click Links to read Complete Statements
From the NY Times: In Net Neutrality Plan, F.C.C. Chief Sees Internet Service Regulated as Public Utility
Mr. Wheeler’s proposal will undoubtedly set off further debate and lobbying. Republicans in Congress recently proposed legislation that would prohibit content blocking and the creation of fast and slow lanes on the Internet, but would prevent the F.C.C. from issuing regulations to achieve those goals.
The opponents of utility-style rules are led by the cable and telecommunications companies, which are the main broadband suppliers to homes. They regard the approach as opening a door to heavy-handed regulation that will deter investment and innovation, ultimately harming consumers.
From The Verge: What You Need to Know about the FCC’s Net Neutrality Plan (Video)
From the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “Huge Win for the Open Internet! FCC Officially Embraces Title II”
This fight is far from over, however. Reclassification is essential, but let’s keep our eyes on the prize…
…the devil is always in the details. For example, will throttling be acceptable if ISPs claim it is being used to target copyright infringement? We’ll also want more details about the so-called “general conduct rule” that, Chairman Wheeler claims, “can be used to stop new and novel threats to the internet.” While this flexible language may mean that we don’t have to mobilize millions of Internet users every time we need the FCC to address new threats, a “general conduct rule” could be abused by a future FCC. We will be watching this one closely.
From Gigaom: The FCC’s Net Neutrality Proposal is Awesome, But Has a Loophole
From the Center for Democracy and Technology: Proposed Rules Provide Strong Protections for the Open Internet
From Public Knowledge: Title II is Not Net Neutrality, and Net Neutrality is Not Utility Regulation
While Title II of the Communications Act provides the firmest legal grounding for net neutrality rules, Title II and net neutrality are not one and the same. While Title II contains broad prohibitions on unjust and unreasonable conduct by telecommunications providers, the FCC has to determine exactly what that means as applied to a given service, such as broadband. Practices that were allowed for other telecommunications services, like telephony, might be unreasonable for broadband–and vice versa. While PK has argued that the FCC should use its Title II authority to enact net neutrality rules for broadband, we have never said the Title II is useful only for net neutrality. Title II will also help the FCC refocus its universal service program on broadband more directly, protect subscriber privacy, and ensure public safety and network reliability, among other things.
Statement From Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW)
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.”
Statement From National Cable Television and Telecommunications Association
We believe that such a significant expansion of the FCC’s authority is unnecessary and will only deliver further uncertainty instead of legally enforceable rules that everyone supports. Despite the repeated assurances from the President and Chairman Wheeler, we remain concerned that this proposal will confer sweeping discretion to regulate rates and set the economic terms and conditions of business relationships.
By relying on both its Title II and Section 706 authority, Chairman Wheeler’s proposal will provide a strong legal basis to ensure that the open character of the Internet is preserved and that the Internet is not divided into fast lanes and slow lanes based on the ability or willingness to pay for enhanced access.
“I am very pleased that Chairman Wheeler’s outlined proposal matches the network neutrality principles ALA and nearly a dozen library and higher education groups called for last July,” said ALA President Courtney Young. “America’s libraries collect, create and disseminate essential information to the public over the Internet, and enable our users to create and distribute their own digital content and applications. Network neutrality is essential to meeting our mission in serving America’s communities and preserving the Internet as a platform for free speech, innovation, research and learning for all.“The ALA commends the Chairman for asserting FCC authority under both Title II of the Communications Act and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to provide the strongest possible legal foundation for network neutrality rules,” said Larra Clark, deputy director of the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy. “We also are pleased these rules will apply to both fixed and mobile broadband, which ALA has long advocated.”
Chairman Wheeler also outlined provisions of Title II from which he would forbear from enforcing, including rate regulation or imposing new taxes or fees. “After the recent successful completion of E-rate program modernization to better enable affordable access to high-capacity broadband through libraries and schools, ALA has a particular interest in safeguarding FCC authority related to the Universal Service Fund,” Clark said. “We are encouraged the Chairman specifically called out universal service and look forward to better understanding how a partial application of Section 254 will work.”
We commend the FCC for recognizing the path forward involves a free, competitive and open Internet. However, the rules Chairman Wheeler outlined today don’t strike the right balance, failing to encourage the competition and investment needed to keep the Internet growing and thriving.
MORE TO COME
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com. Gary is also the co-founder of infoDJ an innovation research consultancy supporting corporate product and business model teams with just-in-time fact and insight finding.