Federal Communications Commission chair Tom Wheeler announced yesterday that the commission would propose a new regulatory framework to preserve the open Internet after a January court ruling invalidated its net neutrality rules. Fran Berkman outlines Wheeler’s ideas:
Aside for the non-discrimination rules, Wheeler said he will also push for a couple of other new rules to buttress net neutrality. One is a transparency rule that would compel companies to disclose, in detail, how their networks operate. This would ensure that ISPs aren’t violating these standards. The other is a rule to reestablish the Open Internet Order’s “no-blocking goal.” This means ISPs can’t simply block whatever websites they want, for instance, those run by competing companies. The no-blocking goal, which the D.C. appeals court also ruled against, protects any and all websites that operate within the law.
Suderman reminds readers that the FCC’s authority is pretty broad:
Even though the most [recent court] ruling struck down the FCC’s specific net neutrality requirements, it also gave the agency a lot more power over the Internet, saying that under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, the agency does have the power to promote and regulate broadband competition and deployment. We’ll have to wait and see how the agency ends up using its new powers, but they are potentially far-reaching. In a dissenting opinion, Judge Laurence Silberman wrote that the majority ruling “grant[s] the FCC virtually unlimited power to regulate the Internet” by giving it the authority to put in place “any regulation that, in the FCC’s judgment might arguably make the Internet ‘better.’”
Brian Fung digs deeper:
As it considers rewriting the net neutrality rules to more explicitly rely on Section 706, the FCC will simultaneously keep open the possibility of “reclassifying” broadband providers. Such a step would allow the FCC to regulate ISPs just like it does phone companies, and policy watchers say reclassification would grant the FCC unambiguous authority to regulate broadband providers with a blanket ban on traffic discrimination. Keeping reclassification on the table effectively gives the FCC a nuclear option to use as a deterrent against companies that want to prioritize Internet traffic.
Benen notes that the change is not so much in the content of the rules but rather the source of the FCC’s authority to enforce them:
How will this be any different from the FCC’s neutrality policy, 1.0? For the most part, it’s not different at all. The FCC appears to have come to the conclusion that the federal appeals court struck down the previous rules because the agency didn’t have the proper legal authority to regulate the major telecoms. So in the new policy, as the New York Times reported, the FCC “will cite another section of the law for its authority.”
Peter Weber warns Republicans that they’re not making any friends by standing against net neutrality:
Their main complaint is that this is government interference in the free market. And in a narrow sense it is, as is all government regulation. But when the government steps in to make sure that private companies can’t bilk consumers by exploiting their dominant slice of a market or through legalese, that tends to be pretty popular. Is anyone really upset that George W. Bush’s FCC mandated that cellphone customers can bring their phone numbers with them when they switch carriers?