Crowdsourcing an Open Letter on the Open Internet

WASHINGTON — A Democratic congressman eyeing one of Iowa’s U.S. Senate seats is using the government’s recent network-neutrality decision as a rallying point for supporters.

In an e-mail cited by website Daily Kos last week, Rep. Bruce Braley of Iowa asked his supporters to sign an open letter to Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler urging the chairman to come up with new rules ASAP.

“Consumers want choice and open access in the Internet. They do not want huge telecommunications companies controlling what they see,” Braley wrote.

Wheeler has some room to maneuver toward new rules that could pass muster with the courts. While the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down the heart of the rules, it gave the FCC advice on how it might redraft them using existing authority or by reclassifying them under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

Wheeler is being pushed by some to take that second approach — what cable operators and Internet-service providers call the “nuclear” option — but is more likely to use the FCC’s authority to promote universal broadband to underpin a new, case-specific approach to open Internet protections.

Braley is likely wise to try and use the bully pulpit of his office and public pressure to get new network neutrality rules. While Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and others have signaled they want to pass legislation clarifying the FCC’s authority under statute to regulate the Internet, getting anything controversial through the current Congress — and Democrats and Republicans are clearly divided over that issue — is a long shot.

A source close to Markey told Multichannel News the language on their bill was being finalized and they expect to introduce it “soon.”

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.