Wheeler Tees Up Net Neutrality for May Meeting

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said Wednesday that he would be circulating a draft of the FCC's new network neutrality rules to the other commissioners April 24.

Wheeler has already outlined his planned approach, but the devil will be in the details. FCC staffers had been looking for the item to be circulated Thursday, the customary three weeks’ notice to the other commissioners before the May 15 meeting.

Cable operators did not oppose the previous incarnation of the rules, but the core of those rules—the antiblocking and nondiscrimination rules—were rejected by a D.C. federal appeals court and remanded back to the FCC.

Wheeler announced back in February that the FCC would craft new rules under its section 706 authority. Sec. 706, part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, directs the FCC to determine whether advanced telecommunications "capability" is being deployed in a reasonable and timely manner to all Americans and if not gives it the authority to impose regs to achieve that end.

The new rules will preserve the “goals” of the old rules’ no-blocking and antidiscrimination provisions. In terms of blocking, that means insuring "edge providers are not unfairly blocked, explicitly or implicitly, from reaching consumers, as well as ensuring that consumers can continue to access any lawful content and services they choose," as Wheeler put it in a blog post at the time.

As for discrimination, which will be a more finessed call, the FCC plans to look to its data roaming order, as the court suggested, for help in preventing discrimination, as well as the court's guidance that the FCC is correct in concluding that ISPs have the incentive and ability to discriminate against over-the-top video and data competitors.

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.