Wheeler: FCC Will Put Some Flesh On Open Internet Principles 'Shortly'

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he would be coming out soon with more "flesh" on how the FCC will preserve basic Internet openness principles in the wake of the D.C. federal court's vacating and remand of the FCC's non-blocking and non-discrimination rules.

Following the FCC's public meeting Jan. 30, Wheeler did not say how he would approach that, including whether or not that would be using the FCC's current authority or reclassifying broadband as a common carrier service, saying he was still considering all the tools in his toolkit.

"As I have also said, we interpret the court decision as an invitation and we will accept that invitation," he said, echoing his statement following the court decision two weeks ago.

Wheeler has signaled he might take a case-by-case approach to enforcing those principles, but was asked how that would square with giving stakeholders notice of what might run afoul of them. Wheeler repeated that he was in support of an open Internet and said he would be actively protecting it. But he would not provide any specifics.

One suggestion has been that the FCC convent stakeholders to come up with self regs, something like the Federal Trade Commission and National Telecommunications & Information Administration has been overseeing in an effort to put some teeth in an online privacy bill of rights.

"As we have made repeatedly clear and I will say again," Wheeler said again, pounding the rostrum for emphasis at every word: "We will preserve and protect the open Internet. As I have also said, we interpret the court decision as an invitation and we will accept that invitation. And I think that what you will see in a relatively short time [he would only say "soon"] is us stepping out to put some more flesh around those basic principles."

Asked about the announcement Thursday that various groups—including Free Press, Common Cause, Demand Progress—had just delivered a petition with more than 1 million signatures asking the FCC to classify broadband as a Title II telecom service, Wheeler said.

"One of the great things that the Internet does and one of the reasons that the Internet has to stay open is that it enables people to organize and express themselves to the government and it therefore enables the government to do a better job. We want to hear from those million people. That's boffo."

Wheeler was asked whether the FCC would be issuing a notice of inquiry on network neutrality. "I think that what we will be doing is addressing a construct for how we go forward, and that will use all of the vehicles at the agency, which obviously include various proceedings and others.

Any timeline on articulating some of those principles: Soon.

Talking about the FCC's media ownership review and progress on the 2014 review—Wheeler pulled Genachowski's 2010 proposal off the table—the chairman cited both reviews and said that he was "looking at all the topics that are interrelated there and looking at them in a holistic manner and will be coming out with some thoughts on that in the near term."

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.