FCC's Wheeler says he'll maintain the Open Internet

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is once again defending his stance on the proposed revision of the net neutrality rules after initial elements were leaked to the press last week.

In a new blog post called "Finding the Best Path Forward to Protect the Open Internet," Wheeler said that the proposal was not a final decision, but instead a "formal request for input" on Open Internet rules.

When The Wall Street Journal broke the story about the proposed revisions, the FCC faced a mountain of criticism from open Internet advocates and industry trade groups. A number of reports suggested that the FCC changed its stance on allowing service providers to charge over the top video providers like Netflix and others to get a speedier connection on their broadband network to deliver their service to consumers.

Wheeler maintained his position that the proposed rules would not allow any service provider to block access or discriminate against Internet traffic traveling over their last mile connections.

"At the heart of the proposed NPRM is the assurance that it won't be possible for an Internet provider to degrade the service available to all," Wheeler wrote. "Let me re-emphasize that: the Internet will remain like it is today, an open pathway. If a broadband provider (ISP) acts in a manner that keeps users from effectively taking advantage of that pathway then it should be a violation of the Open Internet rules."

Wheeler laid out examples of what would violate what he says is "commercially reasonable" behavior:

- Something that harms consumers is not commercially reasonable. For instance, degrading service in order to create a new "fast lane" would be shut down.

- Something that harms competition is not commercially reasonable. For instance, degrading overall service so as to force consumers and content companies to a higher priced tier would be shut down.

- Providing exclusive, prioritized service to an affiliate is not commercially reasonable. For instance, a broadband provider that also owns a sports network should not be able to give a commercial advantage to that network over another competitive sports network wishing to reach viewers over the Internet.  

- Something that curbs the free exercise of speech and civic engagement is not commercially reasonable. For instance, if the creators of new Internet content or services had to seek permission from ISPs or pay special fees to be seen online, such action should be shut down.

He also emphasized that the proposal is not a final, but rather "a formal request for input on a proposal as well as a set of related questions," adding that "all options for protecting and promoting an Open Internet are on the table."

The proposal will be voted on by the FCC commissioners at the agency's open meeting on May 15.

For more:
- see the FCC blog post
- see this DSL Reports story
The Wall Street Journal has this story (sub. req.)

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