Wheeler: Netflix Conduct Is Not Open Internet Issue

Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler agrees with Republican Commissioner Michael O'Rielly on at least one thing: Netflix did not violate the FCC's network neutrality rules by slowing video to the subs of some wireless carriers.

In a press conference following the FCC's March 31 public meeting, Wheeler reiterated that the rules did not apply to the edge, but was asked whether what Netflix was doing was pro consumer, essentially an opportunity for him to use the bully pulpit, as it were to admonish the company if he thought that conduct was a threat to the virtuous circle of content flowing to consumers.

"It is outside of our jurisdiction," he answered. "It is not an open Internet issue, what they are doing. I am going to leave it at that." 

But he did say the FCC would continue to look at ISP data caps, Netflix said was the reason it throttled the bits of Verizon and AT&T customers. "We have been looking at zero, rating caps. I don't know whether it means more closely [following Netflix's admission]. It is not a new topic for us. that's for sure."

Asked the status of those inquiries into data caps et al., Wheeler said they were still "underway."

Asked about his take on the initial bid commitments in the broadcast incentive auction, which were due March 29, Wheeler said: "Big stuff, good stuff, lot of things happening." And agreed it was a "spectrum extravaganza."

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.