Wheeler Promises Action on Network Neutrality

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said while he thinks Congress should rewrite the Communications Act, in the interim the FCC has the power and responsibility to protect the Open Internet, though he went no further on explaining how he will go about doing that beyond saying "in the coming days" he will outline his strategy.

In a speech at the Silicon Flatirons Center in Boulder, Colo., Monday, according to a copy of his speech, Wheeler delivered what he called the third installment in a trilogy of policy addresses--"Return of the Jedi, without the Ewoks." He said, borrowing from one of his favorite sources - Abraham Lincoln - that the FCC must "think anew, and act anew."

In the latter department, he said, the most obvious place where the FCC must "act anew" is on network neutrality.

That is because the D.C. Federal Appeals Court vacated the heart of the Commission's Open Internet order.

But Wheeler focused on what the court said the FCC can do, which is "issue enforceable rules of the road to preserve Internet freedom and openness." That means, said Wheeler, that the FCC "has the authority it needs to provide what the public needs – open, competitive, safe, and accessible broadband networks."

He said the question now is not whether the FCC can can do that, but how.

He said the FCC will "act anew." He did not say just what that meant. He pointed out that the court upheld the FCC's ability to regulate broadband under its sec. 706 authority to promote universal deployment. But he also mentioned earlier in the speech that the FCC once reinterpreted Title II to provide for open entry and competition.

But he talked elsewhere of the "growing obsolescence" of Titles II, III, and VI of the act, which govern common carriers, broadcasters and cable operators respectively," given the growing convergence of services.

"Titles II, III, and VI once addressed distinct activities in terms of production and consumption," he said. "While there may continue to be a viable distinction on the consumer, or demand, side, it certainly is no longer true on the production, or supply, side."

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.