FCC Votes To Approve Net Neutrality Regulation
February 26, 2015 at 9:57 AM (PT)
The FCC approved Chairman TOM WHEELER's Internet regulation proposal THURSDAY morning at its FEBRUARY open meeting. As expected, the vote fell along party lines, with WHEELER and fellow Democrats JESSICA ROSENWORCEl and MIGNON CLYBURN in favor and Republicans AJIT PAI and MIKE O'RIELLY voting no.
The proposal, which was not released to the public before the vote, regulates Internet Service Providers under a modified version of the "common carrier" Title II of the Communications Act, aiming at preventing the ISPs from creating paid "fast lanes" with preferential treatment for content providers willing to pay extra, or preferential treatment for content controlled by the ISPs.
CLYBURN compared the regulation to the Bill of Rights as preserving fundamental free speech rights. “This is our third bite at the apple,” she said of the attempts to address Net neutrality, “and we must get it right.” Her remarks also stressed the importance of treating mobile broadband as equal to fixed broadband rather than giving mobile users a “second class” experience.
ROSENWORCEL, keeping her comments brief, called AMERICA’s Internet economy “the envy of the world” but said that the Commission “has a duty” to protect the open Internet.
PAI said that the Commission is replacing freedom with government control, noting that the Internet’s growth came without Title II regulation and represents an about-face from Commission policy purely because President OBAMA asked them to do it. He warned of higher prices, slower speeds, and slower deployment. “This isn’t the answer to a problem,” he said. “This IS the problem.” He said that the plan gives the Commission a “roving mandate” to review and change ISP’s service plan offerings. Taking a shot at OBAMA’s health insurance promise, PAI said that the only plan standard should be, “If you like your current service plan, you can keep your service plan.” He said consumers want “competition, competition, competition” but said that the proposed rules would lead to less competition. And he repeated his criticism of the process leading to the vote, with the WHITE HOUSE getting involved and wiping away WHEELER’s efforts to reach a compromise, and the plan not being released to the public for review and comment.
O’RIELLY ripped the plan as incorporating “every bad idea ever floated in the name of Net neutrality” and worried about the effect Title II will have on broadband investment, charging that the plan is less forbearance than “faux-bearance” that allows regulation through back doors. “There is not a shred of evidence that this (law) is necessary,” he charged before citing several examples of what he saw as loopholes allowing regulations otherwise being waived through forbearance. O'RIELLY added, "The FCC'S fact sheet promised bright line rules but the reality is that the bulk of this rule making will be conducted through case by case adjudication, most likely on the bureau level and through the courts."
WHEELER, calling the regulation a "21st Century set of rules for a 21st Century service," thanked the 4 million members of the public who commented on the proceeding, saying that it made the proceeding "the most open proceeding in FCC history." "We listened," he said, "and we learned. I believe that's what Congress intended when they established the rules by which this agency operates." And on the law itself, WHEELER exclaimed, "The action that we take today is an irrefutable reflection of the principle that no one, whether government or corporate, should control free and open access to the Internet... The Internet is the ultimate vehicle for free expression. The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules." Scoffing at criticism, WHEELER asserted, "This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech."
The proceedings were preceded by comments supporting the proposal by ETSY CEO CHAD DICKERSON, “THE KILLING” showrunner VEENA SUD (whose show was canceled twice by AMC but rescued by NETFLIX), and, on video, World Wide Web founder TIM BERNERS-LEE.