FCC chair responds to Internet rulemaking criticism

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has responded to criticism of the commission's proposed rules on Internet neutrality. The new rules would let Internet service providers sell special access to consumers to media companies willing and able to pay, and potentially providing second or third class status to startups unable to pay. (See my earlier post here.)

In a blog post Thursday, Wheeler wrote, “There has been a great deal of misinformation that has recently surfaced regarding the draft Open Internet Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that we will today circulate to the Commission.”

He continued, “To be very direct, the proposal would establish that behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted.” He added that the FCC has not abandoned the goals of earlier policies regarding net neutrality that have been struck down by a court.

The FCC could halt harmful conduct, he continued, if it were found not to be “commercially reasonable.” In addition, he wrote, under the proposal all ISPs must transparently disclose to their customers relevant information on their policies, no legal content may be blocked, and ISPs may not act in an unreasonable manner to harm the Internet.

Terms like “reasonable” and “unreasonable” seem to open up huge loopholes that would let ISPs and big media companies do whatever they want. The correct approach is to declare that ISPs are common carriers. I fail to see any good reason to classify providers of plain old telephone service are considered common carriers but providers of DSL over the same exact lines are not.

Brendan Sasso at National Journal has more here.

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