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FCC Chief Proposes Strong Net Neutrality Rules

FCC Chief Proposes Strong Net Neutrality Rules

In what is being considered a major shake-up, the Federal Communications Commission’s chairman Tom Wheeler announced plans to propose new rules intended to block all wireless and internet providers from slowing, blocking, or showing discrimination against any consumer and their right to access any particular website they choose.


Wheeler stated the new rules are being put in place to “preserve the internet as an open platform for innovation and free expression.” Expecting a fight from the anti-regulatory Republicans currently in Congress, he noted that thanks to the rules set previously thanks to the FCC, the internet itself was able to come into being and has thrived despite the same rules being in place at its conception. 


Wheeler continued: “The internet must be fast, fair, and open. That is the message I’ve heard from consumers and innovators across this nation. The proposal I present to the commission will ensure the internet remains open now and in the future, for all Americans.”


Wheeler said he will circulate his proposal to fellow commissioners, a proposal that reflects a desire by the FCC to give net neutrality to Americans. Two other attempts were denied by a federal appeals court. This time around, the FCC is trying a tactic by grounding this new effort with their authority to regulate traditional providers under Title II of the Communications Act. The new regulations will be voted on February 26th. 


Wheeler shared his proposal as a move to consider all internet providers as ‘common carriers’ at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier in Las Vegas earlier in January. It’s a sudden change for the FCC, as they chose to halt common carrier regulations for broadband internet during the early part of the Bush Administration in the 2000s. Even then the FCC have always been in favor of net neutrality rules, but was never willing to give up the authority it had on common carriers.


After the latest attempt last spring by the FCC to set up new net-neutrality rules, Wheeler offered to replace the rules without re-determining broadband as common carrier. Yet, that proposal caused an outcry among the public and consumer advocacy groups who charged at the FCC with complaints and demanding that they change course.


Just like prior net neutrality proposals, this latest attempt would keep internet providers from slowing down or even blocking consumers from being able to visit certain sites or services. It will also keep them from creating a so-called ‘fast lane’ for those who have paid extra to have their own services sped up. Though, for the first time, this new proposal will hit both wireless and landline internet providers alike. It previously gave more room to wireless carriers. Now, times have changed. About 55 percent of all traffic now goes through cellular and wireless means. 


These new rules, if passed, would entitle the FCC to be able to watch over all agreements made between the internet providers and those who run the websites. Typically, when a company wanted to connect to the internet, they would pay their own way and each side took care of themselves, but times are changing. Now companies like Google, gaining greater portions of internet traffic, are paying more to upgrade their connections through providers such as Comcast.


These issues aren’t typically at the heart of the net neutrality discussion, but certain deals are now coming under scrutiny, especially when the providers are being accused of attempting to rig performance to force those sites to pay more money for that upgrade. Case in point, Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO. He complained last year that companies like Comcast where deliberately keeping customers from having normal access to their service to force Netflix to pay through the nose to upgrade connections. Netflix had no choice but to give in to the demands of the internet providers. Suddenly, consumers saw those connections improve. 


"My proposal assures the rights of Internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone's permission," said Wheeler.