FCC’s Wheeler: ‘Net neutrality suits expected’

tom-wheelerFCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has admitted that major cable and telecoms industry players are likely to sue the Commission whatever rules it proposes following its consultation on net neutrality.

Speaking after the FCC’s meeting November 21st, Wheeler said: “The big dogs are gonna sue regardless of what comes out. We want to come out with good rules that accomplish what we need to accomplish,” adding that the FCC wanted such rules to be in place after a court decision, “so we want to make sure that we’re thoughtful in the way we structure them, and thoughtful in the way we present what will ultimately be presented to a court.”

The FCC in mid-May issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, opening the proposal to a total 120 days of public comment. Critics of the plan suggest it would mark the end of net neutrality, the principle that says that all content online should be treated equally by Internet Service Providers.

In early October, President Barack Obama declared himself fully committed to net neutrality, effectively coming out in opposition to FCC’s plans. Recognising that the FCC is an independent agency, Obama noted that its preliminary rules caused concern among proponents of net neutrality. “My appointee, Tom Wheeler, knows my position. I can’t – now that he’s there, I can’t just call him up and tell him exactly what to do. But what I’ve been clear about, what the White House has been clear about, is that we expect that whatever final rules to emerge, to make sure that we’re not creating two or three or four tiers of Internet. That ends up being a big priority of mine,” he confirmed.

President Obama subsequently followed up his opposition to ‘paid prioritisation’ suggesting November 10 that the FCC reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, a basic acknowledgement of the services ISPs provide to American homes and businesses, and the straightforward obligations necessary to ensure the network works for everyone – not just one or two companies.

In a Statement he said: “I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality,” again noting that the FCC is an independent agency, and ultimately this decision was its alone. “I believe the FCC should create a new set of rules protecting net neutrality and ensuring that neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online,” he declared.

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