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Peer Pressure from Wheeler?

WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler has said that Internetservice provider peering arrangements were outside the scope of the agency’s new open Internet order.

But in a speech to the Progressive Policy Institute, Wheeler’s chief of staff, Ruth Milkman, indicated that could change.

Citing disputes between Comcast and Level 3 in 2010 and Comcast, Cogent and Verizon Communications earlier this year, Milkman said the FCC did not have the answer to whether those were business negotiations getting resolved in the marketplace, or signs of a breakdown in interconnection and traffic exchanges on the Internet.

Netfl ix has complained that it was essentially forced into a paid peering arrangement with Comcast, while the cable company has said it was Netflix that wanted to cut out the middleman and deal directly.

Milkman said Internet interconnection was outside the scope of the 2010 open Internet order, but only outside the “proposed” scope of the 2014 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. She pointed out that some parties have sought to expand the scope of the 2014 network-neutrality rule effort to include Internet backbone issues like traffic exchanges and peering. She said the FCC will vet those comments and “learn from [them].”

She also signaled the FCC welcomed examples of interconnection practices that raise concerns. Wheeler has signaled interconnection and peering are issues on his radar.