FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler made it official. He is going to propose the strongest rules ever to protect net neutrality. This is a big political victory for President Obama and his party but is even more gigantic for every American, who uses the Internet.
Writing in Wired, Chairman Wheeler announced:
Originally, I believed that the FCC could assure internet openness through a determination of “commercial reasonableness” under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. While a recent court decision seemed to draw a roadmap for using this approach, I became concerned that this relatively new concept might, down the road, be interpreted to mean what is reasonable for commercial interests, not consumers.
That is why I am proposing that the FCC use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections.
Using this authority, I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. I propose to fully apply—for the first time ever—those bright-line rules to mobile broadband. My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.
In plain English, this means that internet is going to remain open and equal for all.
HBO’s John Oliver brought the issue to mainstream attention with a segment from his show that went viral:
The issue turned when President Obama issued a video and a statement in support of net neutrality that called for the FCC to regulate ISPs like a utility. The president said, “So the time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do. To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services. This is a basic acknowledgment of the services ISPs provide to American homes and businesses, and the straightforward obligations necessary to ensure the network works for everyone — not just one or two companies.
Politico reported that President Obama’s support for net neutrality was a major force behind Wheeler’s change of heart.
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) called Wheeler’s announcement a big victory, “This is a big victory. It’s is a win for consumers, for small businesses trying to compete with the big guys, and for innovation. It’s welcome news for all of us who have fought to keep the Internet free and open, and I’m so glad that the millions of Americans who spoke out in support of strong net neutrality rules have been heard.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said, “This is a victory for consumers and entrepreneurs. The proposal would ensure that the Internet remains a space for the open exchange of ideas and information, free of discrimination and corporate control.”
The FCC is an independent agency, but it is clear that the 4 million comments in support of net neutrality that flooded the agency, and strong words of the president made the difference. The Republican argument that allowing a handful corporations to control the Internet defied common sense. The Republican distortions of the definition of net neutrality were so extreme that Sen. Al Franken said that he didn’t think that Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz understood what net neutrality was. Cruz responded by releasing a video on net neutrality that proved the Minnesota Democrat right.
Chairman Wheeler’s proposal is a defeat for the telecom giants who tried to engage in a hostile takeover of the Internet. Their loss is a testament to what can happen when millions of Americans get engaged and involved, and political leaders listen to the will of the people.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association