FCC chair Tom Wheeler vs. ISPs: FIGHT!

Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler is getting serious about using Title II (or, at least, the bits he likes)

tom wheeler fcc title ii

In a dizzying volte face, the Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler has come out in favor of Title II regulation. Where he was previously minded to use Section 706 powers, he's now siding with Obama's wish to regulate fixed-line and mobile ISPs as common carriers.

What's new here? Wheeler published more flesh to put on the bones of his new pro-utility position. He's talking in some detail about how Title II might apply, and calling out the bits of the Communications Act that he wants the FCC to ignore. Naturally, ISPs aren't happy.

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What's the matter, Matt Hamblen?

Tom Wheeler today laid out an ambitious net neutrality planthe "strongest open Internet protections," propos[ing] the [FCC] use its Title II authoritynearly in line with President Obama's position.

Wheeler originally had backed the less strictSection 706 approach favored by [ISPs]. Wheeler also said his proposal [will] "stop new and novel threats to the Internet."

The full commission is expected to vote on the proposal Feb. 26.  MORE

And Jon Brodkin clarifies the details:

Within a few weeks we’ll have a huge document full of legalese on therules. [But] this isn’t “utility-style regulation.” [despite] regulating them under Title II.

[ISPs] will be common carriers in their relationships withbroadband customers [and] with companies that deliver contentsuch as Amazon or Netflix. The rulesdo not regulate Web applications orcontent delivery networks like Akamai.

The ban on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization is the biggest takeaway. Title II banning “unjust and unreasonable practices” will be used to enforce [it]. The FCC [could] intervene [if] caps are used to harm consumers or competitors. ISPs will facenetwork management practicesdisclosure requirements. [But an ISP] can’t cite reasonable network management to justify reneging on‘unlimited’ data. [It will] enforce the partthat “ensures fair access to poles and conduits”.

There are dozens of [other] sections in Title II [that] will applyinclud[ing] investigations ofcomplaints, privacyand protections for people with disabilities.  MORE

Cometh the hour, cometh Tom Wheeler?

The time to settle the Net Neutrality question has arrived. [My] proposal is rooted inregulatory principles, marketplace experience, and public input. Congress gave the FCC broad authorityto reflect changes in technology andbehavior in a way that protects consumers.

Originally, I believed that the FCC could [use a] Section 706determination of “commercial reasonableness.” [But] I became concerned that [it] mightbe interpreted to mean"reasonable" for commercial interests, not consumers. [So] I am proposing that the FCC useTitle II.

Theserules will ban paid prioritizationblocking and throttling. [I also] propose to fully apply [the] rules to mobile broadband. This can be accomplished while encouraging investment [because we] will modernize Title IIin order to provide returns necessary [for] competitive networksthere will be no rate regulationtariffs [nor] last-mile unbundling. [And] my proposal includes a general conduct rule that can be used [against] novel threats -- [it's] flexible enoughto deal with the realities of today [and] the as yet unimagined.  MORE

But NCTA CEO Michael Powell is NOT a happy bunny:

Wheeler’s proposal to impose the heavy burden of Title IIon the Internet goes far beyond the worthy goal ofnet neutrality. [It's] backward-lookingill-suitedwith far reaching and troubling consequencesunnecessarywill only deliver further uncertainty [and] will confer sweeping discretion to regulate rates.

[We have] repeatedly voiced our support forimportant protections [like] no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization and transparencywithout the significant regulatory baggage [of] utility regulation.  MORE

Facing the music and dancing, Eli Dourado also alleges trouble ahead:

[These] rules will kick at least 4.7 million households offline [because] broadband will suddenly become subject to numeroustaxes and fees.

According to a policy brief by Brookingsand the Progressive Policy Institute [it] will increase fixed broadband costs on average by$49/yeardue to both federal and local taxesthis represents a9.1 percent increase. With 84 million fixed broadband subscribers [and] an elasticity of -0.62, there will be adecline of4.7 millionhouseholds.

This is a terrible result.  MORE

Meanwhile, DustiiWolf offers his favorite ISP some delicious cake to have OR to eat:

If I’m not mistaken, Verizon has used Title II in the past to expand [its] infrastructure, but [are] against the regulatory functions.

You’re either a Title II common carrier or not. No reaping all the benefits while avoidingconsequences.  MORE

You have been reading IT Blogwatch by Richi Jennings, who curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don't have to. Catch the key commentary from around the Web every morning. Hatemail may be directed to @RiCHi or itbw@richi.uk. Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

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