FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says that whatever final net neutrality rules the commission issues next year, the FCC will be challenged in the courts by major service providers.
"We are going to get sued, because that's the history," Wheeler said, according to a Wall Street Journal report. "We don't want to ignore history. We want to come out with good rules that accomplish what we need to accomplish: no blocking, no throttling, no fast-lane discrimination… and we want those rules to be in place after a court decision."
The net neutrality battle has become a political issue as President Barack Obama asked the FCC in a public address to reclassify Internet as a Title II service under the 1996 Telecom Act. Public interest groups and net neutrality advocates say that Title II reclassification will give the FCC power to prevent service providers from selling so-called "fast lanes" to content providers like Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX), whose traffic can then be prioritized over other traffic going to subscribers.
Wheeler has not indicated what way he is leaning toward and he has not spoken directly to the president about his support for Title II reclassification.
However, the idea of using Title II has been vehemently opposed from service providers like AT&T (NYSE: T), which recently announced it would halt new fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) investments due to what they say is a lack of clarity around net neutrality. In response, the FCC has asked AT&T for specific elements on why the company would delay new fiber network investments pending the outcome of the proposed net neutrality rules.
Just a few days before Obama's speech, AT&T's CEO and Chairman Randall Stephenson made a personal plea to Wheeler to not reclassify broadband under Title II.
Neither Wheeler nor the FCC has said when they will make a final decision on net neutrality and it's not on the agency's December meeting agenda.
"I want to move forward…with dispatch," Wheeler said. "I also want open Internet rules that can be sustained."
AT&T halts fiber deployments until net neutrality is resolved
FCC wants AT&T to provide information on fiber investment delay
AT&T's Stephenson appeals directly to FCC's Wheeler to not reclassify broadband under Title II
FCC's Wheeler proposes two-tier net neutrality plan for broadband services
FCC flooded with over 3M comments about net neutrality rules