FCC Chief Vows No Internet ‘Slow Lanes’

Tom Wheeler defends his proposed net-neutrality rules.

Thomas Wheeler testifies in his confirmation hearing to become Federal Communications Commission chairman, before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on June 18, 2013 in Washington, DC. Wheeler testified that he supports a spectrum auction but likened it to a Rubik's cube, with many different facets that must be aligned perfectly in order to be completed.
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
April 29, 2014, 2:20 p.m.

The chair­man of the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion is try­ing to ease fears that he is cav­ing on net neut­ral­ity.

In a blog post Tues­day, Tom Wheel­er said his pro­posed rules would put the FCC “on track to have tough, en­force­able Open In­ter­net rules on the books in an ex­ped­i­tious man­ner, end­ing a dec­ade of un­cer­tainty and lit­ig­a­tion.”

Wheel­er has come un­der fire from lib­er­al law­makers and con­sumer ad­vocacy groups after float­ing new rules that would al­low In­ter­net ser­vice pro­viders to charge web­sites for faster ser­vice as long as the ar­range­ments are “com­mer­cially reas­on­able.” Crit­ics ar­gue that al­low­ing “fast lanes” would tilt the In­ter­net in fa­vor of the largest cor­por­a­tions and stifle new In­ter­net start-ups.

Demo­crat­ic Sen. Al Franken said Tues­day that al­low­ing pay-for-pri­or­ity deals would “des­troy” the open In­ter­net.

But Wheel­er vowed that un­der his rules, it “won’t be pos­sible for an In­ter­net pro­vider to de­grade the ser­vice avail­able to all.”

He said the de­bate over “fast lanes” misses the point. His rules would en­sure that the In­ter­net is “suf­fi­ciently ro­bust” for con­sumers to ac­cess whatever con­tent and ap­plic­a­tions they want, he said.

“De­grad­ing ser­vice in or­der to cre­ate a new ‘fast lane’ would be shut down,” Wheel­er said.

The state­ment ap­pears to in­dic­ate that Wheel­er’s pro­pos­al would bar ISPs from tar­get­ing any web­sites for “slow lanes.” The FCC would al­low ISPs to speed up par­tic­u­lar web­sites only if the pro­vider is not pur­pose­fully slow­ing down over­all ser­vice.

Wheel­er said that In­ter­net pro­viders would not be able to speed up af­fil­i­ated con­tent. So it would be il­leg­al for an ISP to put its own sports net­work in a fast lane. Any­thing that curbs the “free ex­er­cise of speech and civic en­gage­ment” would also be banned, he said.

“In oth­er words, the In­ter­net will re­main an open path­way,” he said.

“If broad­band pro­viders would seek to use the com­mer­cially reas­on­able test as jus­ti­fic­a­tion of activ­it­ies in which users can’t ef­fect­ively use that path­way, or the cap­ab­il­it­ies of it are de­graded, I sug­gest they save their breath since such con­duct would be a vi­ol­a­tion of the Open In­ter­net rules we pro­pose. If any­one acts to de­grade the ser­vice for all for the be­ne­fit of a few, I in­tend to use every avail­able power to stop it.”

Wheel­er is try­ing to re­write the rules in a way that will hold up in court. The D.C. Cir­cuit struck down the old, stronger rules in Janu­ary.

Lib­er­al ad­vocacy groups are pres­sur­ing the FCC to re­clas­si­fy broad­band In­ter­net as a Title II “tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions ser­vice,” which the agency has broad au­thor­ity to reg­u­late. That move would al­low the FCC to re­in­state stronger rules, but would prompt a swift back­lash from Re­pub­lic­ans and busi­ness groups.

Wheel­er said he “won’t hes­it­ate” to use the Title II op­tion if his pro­pos­al turns out to be in­suf­fi­cient.

“If we get to a situ­ation where ar­rival of the ‘next Google’ or the ‘next Amazon’ is be­ing delayed or de­terred, we will act as ne­ces­sary us­ing the full panoply of our au­thor­ity,” he said. “Just be­cause I be­lieve strongly that fol­low­ing the court’s roadmap will en­able us to have rules pro­tect­ing an Open In­ter­net more quickly, does not mean I will hes­it­ate to use Title II if war­ran­ted.”

Net­flix CEO Reed Hast­ings has urged Wheel­er to ex­pand the net neut­ral­ity rules to en­sure that web­sites can con­nect dir­ectly to ISPs’ net­works for free. Net­flix has had to pay Com­cast and, most re­cently, Ve­r­i­zon for in­ter­con­nec­tion deals to im­prove video qual­ity. Even the old rules would not have pro­hib­ited the deals be­cause they in­volve the way net­works con­nect to each oth­er, as op­posed to how traffic flows in­to sub­scribers’ homes.

Wheel­er said that while the is­sue is out­side of his net-neut­ral­ity pro­pos­al, he will ask for com­ments on how the FCC should reg­u­late in­ter­con­nec­tion deals.

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
ARE YOU THE GATEKEEPER?
Sanders: Obama Is a Progressive
1 days ago
THE LATEST

“Do I think President Obama is a progressive? Yeah, I do,” said Bernie Sanders, in response to a direct question in tonight’s debate. “I think they’ve done a great job.” But Hillary Clinton wasn’t content to sit out the latest chapter in the great debate over the definition of progressivism. “In your definition, with you being the gatekeeper of progressivism, I don’t think anyone else fits that definition,” she told Sanders.

×