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Wheeler: FCC Is Net Neutrality 'Referee'

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler signaled Thursday (June 18) that the interconnection deals struck in the shadow of the FCC's new network neutrality order are something of a template of how the commission wants the new rules to work in encouraging marketplace solutions.

In a press conference following the FCC's public meeting, Wheeler said the way he expected "the players, in this case the companies [he was pivoting from a football analogy] will work between and among themselves to resolve any problems, to resolve disputes." He said the FCC's role was to be the referee (pivoting back to the football metaphor) and throw the flag when the rules get violated, "when something is clearly untoward."

He said that the FCC has seen already, in interconnection agreements, that "just the fact that the FCC is on the field has allowed the players to come together and find mutually agreeable solutions." He suggested that was the game plan for other parts of the Open Internet order.

"I think it is a good precedent for the kinds of things that we hope come," he said.

Backbone providers Level 3 and Cogent have both struck some interconnection deals with ISPs in recent weeks, but still have some in the pipeline and have suggested if they aren't struck to their satisfaction, they would be asking the FCC to throw a flag.

In a press conference with the Republican members following the chairman's, commissioner Michael O'Rielly said he wasn't sure how much the item could be credited with that effect. "I'm sure it also produced the great weather we're having." He said companies make decisions for multiple reasons. He said he did not know whether the companies made those decisions because they were actually in their best interests, or because of the threat of a hammer coming down from the commission.

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.