Wheeler: No Timetable for Zero Rating Review

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said Monday that he is trying to create regulatory certainty though an ex-post examination of zero rating plans and data caps, but he also said he has not timetable for completing that review.

Wheeler, speaking to the INCOMPAS (formerly COMPTEL) show in Washington April 11, said access to the internet is arguably the most important commodity in the current economy, which is one of the reasons there is a general conduct standard in the FCC's Open Internet order so the FCC can look at potential threats to broadband openness on a case-by-case basis.

He called it ironic that those who complain the rules are not sufficiently certain also complaining about the general conduct standard, which he says has "the ability to create certainty through ex-post examination of the market."

But while he said the ultimate goal is certainty, he also said "[t]here is no definite end date or predetermined outcome for this inquiry."

He did say the guiding principles are how it will resolve that inquiry, one of which is: "An incumbent should not be able to use its position as a gatekeeper to unfairly discriminate against unaffiliated content or services that may, today or tomorrow, pose a competitive threat to the incumbent’s own business."

He said the FCC has "for too long...played a regulatory lawyer’s game dancing back and forth among legacy regulatory categories."

He said the question should be is the consumer's choice being unfairly constrained. If the answer is yes, then the results will be lower quality, higher price or less innovation. If no, then everyone will have to compete for that viewer.

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.