16 June 2019

Internet Giants Weigh In On New FCC Rules

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More than 100 Internet companies and two of five commissioners of the Federal Communications Commission are taking issue with Chairman Tom Wheeler's plan to regulate broadband providers.

Mr. Wheeler's proposed Internet rules would allow broadband companies to charge content providers for access to the fastest lanes. The proposal has angered proponents of network neutrality—the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally.

"If these reports are correct, this represents a grave threat to the Internet," said Amazon.com Inc., Google Inc., eBay Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Facebook Inc., among others, on Wednesday in a letter to Mr. Wheeler.

"Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission's rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization, and should make the market for Internet services more transparent," the companies said in the letter. "The rules should provide certainty to all market participants and keep the costs of regulation low."

The FCC plans to vote May 15 on whether to move forward the proposal by opening it up for public comment, setting up for a final vote later this year. A spokeswoman for Mr. Wheeler said he supports a "robust public debate" on the issue, which is why he intends to put the proposal out for public comment next week.

Democratic commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn, in statements released on Wednesday, suggested they are not in favor of Mr. Wheeler's proposed Internet rules, which would allow broadband companies to charge content providers for access to their fastest lanes.

At a speech in Washington, Ms. Rosenworcel said she has "real concerns" about the proposal as well as the process being used to formulate the new rules. She said the proposal has "unleashed a torrent of public response," including tens of thousands of emails and hundreds of phone calls.

"For this reason, I think we should delay our consideration of his rules by a least a month. I believe that rushing headlong into a rulemaking next week fails to respect the public response to his proposal," Ms. Rosenworcel said.

Ms. Clyburn published a blog post reiterating her commitment to net neutrality, noting that, four years ago, she supported stronger net-neutrality rules than those ultimately adopted by the FCC in 2010. A federal court threw out those rules in January, prompting Mr. Wheeler's latest attempt.

Ms. Clyburn, in her post, noted her past support for rules that banned preferential treatment altogether and covered wireless carriers, and linked to a previous statement that expresses support for reclassifying broadband as a utility, which would subject it to much greater regulation.

"There is no doubt that preserving and maintaining a free and open Internet is fundamental to the core values of our democratic society, and I have an unwavering commitment to its independence. My mind remains open as I continue to evaluate how best to promote these fundamental, core values," Ms. Clyburn wrote.

Mr. Wheeler has tried to push back against some of the furor generated by his proposal by promising that the FCC won't allow the Internet to be divided into fast and slow lanes. However, many net-neutrality advocates argue that, unless the FCC reclassifies broadband as a utility, any attempt to limit paid arrangements would be vulnerable to another legal challenge from the broadband providers.

Mr. Wheeler recently stated that he is willing to reclassify broadband as a utility if needed to protect the open Internet.

Click here for the original article in the Wall Street Journal.

Related - New York Times: ‘F.C.C. Commissioner Asks for Delay on New Net Neutrality Rules’ 

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