The Cable Show 2014: Wheeler Says He'll UseTitle II If He Has To

Look for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to defend his new network neutrality rules in his speech to The Cable Show Wednesday morning, telling his cable audience that if anyone was looking to celebrate Wheeler's supposed gutting of the Open Internet rules, they can "put away the party hats." He also said that if anyone tries to divide the Internet 'haves' and 'have nots,' he will not hesitate to use Title II reclassification if he feels it is warranted.

According to his prepared remarks, Chairman Wheeler, himself former president of NCTA, will underscore that any Open Internet rules the FCC produces will be tough, enforceable and lay to rest misconceptions about what the proposal is meant to accomplish, said an FCC official speaking on background.

He will also remind the cable audience that the federal appeals court that remanded the rules back to the FCC concluded that "broadband providers represent a threat to Internet openness” and have “incentives to interfere” with competitors.

The chairman will make the case that the commission needs to act quickly to get legally sustainable rules on the books to insure that consumers, entrepreneurs and innovators have the protections they need. 

Here is an excerpt from the chairman's prepared remarks, obtained by B&C.

"If you read some of the press accounts about what we propose to do, those of you who oppose net neutrality might feel like a celebration was in order. Reports that we are gutting the Open Internet rules are incorrect. I am here to say “wait a minute.” Put away the party hats. The Open Internet rules will be tough, enforceable and, with the concurrence of my colleagues, in place with dispatch."

There has been a great deal of talk about how our following the court’s instruction to use a “commercially reasonable” test could result in a so-called “fast lane” and Internet “haves” and “have-nots.” This misses the point that any new rule will ensure an open pathway that is sufficiently robust to enable consumers to access the content, services and applications they demand and ensure innovators and edge providers are able to offer new products and services.

"Put another way, the focus of this proposal – on which we are seeking comment – is on maintaining a broadly available, fast and robust Internet as a platform for economic growth, innovation, competition, free expression, and broadband investment and deployment. Our goal is rules that will encourage broadband providers to continually upgrade service to all. We will follow the court’s blueprint for achieving this, and, I must warn you, will look skeptically on special exceptions.

"Let me be clear. If someone acts to divide the Internet between 'haves' and 'have nots,' we will use every power at our disposal to stop it. I consider that to include Title II. Just because it is my strong belief that following the court’s roadmap will produce similar protections more quickly, does not mean I will hesitate to use Title II if warranted. And, in our Notice, we are asking for input as to whether this approach should be used."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.