FCC Hosts Legal Debate Over Net Neutrality Authority

The FCC's final day of network neutrality forums focused on legal options for restoring new rules, so Title II vs. Sec. 706 got a lot of attention, but so did various hybrid models — proposed by AT&T, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Mozilla and others — that would replace the "vs." with an ampersand.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler signaled from the outset of the forum that, while he didn't mind debate, he did not want the parties retreating into their corners and shouting their talking points. There was no shouting, though there was some impassioned pleas not to let comedian John Oliver or Netflix define the debate, and a Nebraska public service commissioner who, invoking Larry the Cable Guy, sternly dressed down the lawyers and told them to "get 'er done" [rules preventing blocking and prioritizing) for the sake of consumers.

Wheeler also advised that miracles could happen when the two sides "dialog." There were no miracles at the forum, but plenty of dialog, particularly about hybrid 706/Title II approaches that would define the business-to-business relationship between ISP's and edge providers as a telecom service subject to Title II, and the relationship between ISP and consumer as an information service under Sec. 706.

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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.