FCC's Sohn: Open Internet Draft Circulated

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has now circulated his latest draft to all the commissioners, according to Gigi Sohn, FCC special counsel for external affairs. Sohn also signaled the public and stakeholders would have most of 120 days to comment on the draft.

Earlier in the day, the Republican offices said they had not seen it and Democratic offices had been mum or did not return calls at press time.

In a Twitter chat on the new rules Tuesday, Sohn confirmed it had been circulated to the other commissioners, though the outlines of the changes had already been reported widely in the press.

Wheeler signaled to cable ISPs in a speech to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association that without rules in place, they would be a threat to open Internet. Sohn seconded that in her chat, saying: "chairman knows free market won't protect internet. That's why he's proposing new rules."

Sohn said she was having the Twitter chat because the chairman wanted to engage with the public.

The FCC promoted the chat on its Web site.

The chairman has been taking a lot of heat over his proposal to use FCC's existing Sec. 706 authority to buttress the new rules rather than reclassify Internet access under Title II common carrier regs, or some version of those regs.

She said that Title II was up for consideration, but that the chairman believes that Sec. 706 can be an "effective path forward" given the court's "road map" for using that authority to reinstate them.

Sec. 706 gives the FCC the authority to regulate if it determines that "advanced telecommunications capability" is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.

The chairman is trying to negotiate new rules that essentially restore the old prohibitions on blocking and unreasonable discrimination, while insuring they pass judicial muster this time around. But for many advocates, anything short of Title II is short of insuring an open Internet.

Sohn said there would be  60 days for comment and almost 60 for replies. That would mean a comment period extending into September. She said the goal is still to have the rules in place by year's end.

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.