Wheeler Slammed Over ‘Sender-Side’ Neutrality

WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler is catching flak from both sides over a hybrid approach to network neutrality that’s in the works at the agency.

In a letter released last Friday (Nov. 7), Free Press, the Future of Music Coalition, Demand Progress and more than 60 other groups have asked the chairman not to take the hybrid approach, which would use the agency’s authority under both Title II and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act.

The FCC’s lead proposal for remaking the network-neutrality rules, undone by a U.S. court earlier this year, is said to be one that would regulate edge providers’ access to individual subscribers via Internet service providers as a one-to-one telecommunications service under Title II, but regulate subscribers’ access to all those edge providers and services via their ISP as an information service under Section 706.

ISPs see that as the nuclear option of Title II; the groups that wrote the letter also see it as an unacceptable approach that falls short of the no-paid-prioritization stand of President Obama.

“So-called sender-side proposals are highly questionable and could fundamentally threaten the open Internet,” the groups wrote. “These proposals would split the Internet in two, creating divisions in Internet access and enshrining the notion that people or companies sending information have protections against discrimination, while users have none against their own ISP.

“They would make every website and application in the world into a customer of every ISP in the United States,” the letter continued. “This would be a radical departure from established law, and it would not solve the fundamental problem of online discrimination or the ability of ISPs to create Internet slow lanes.”

The groups argued that anything short of Title II reclassification is not “real” Title II or “real” network neutrality.

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.