In a speech delivered on Monday at the University of Colorado Law School, Wheeler said he intends to “preserve a free and open Internet.” The FCC head has yet to provide specifics. Instead, he said only that he intends soon to outline how he wants to proceed.
In January, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals gutted the FCC's net neutrality rules, which prohibited broadband providers from blocking lawful content or apps. The court ruled that the FCC couldn't impose common carrier regulations on broadband providers, given that the agency classified broadband as an “information” service in 2002.
Neutrality advocates now say the FCC must first reclassify broadband as a telecommunication service if the agency wants to impose neutrality rules that will stand up in court. That way, broadband providers will be subject to the same common carrier rules that require telephone companies to put through all calls.
If Wheeler intends to take that route, he's keeping it a secret -- to the dismay of advocates. On Friday, the group Free Press made another push to convince Wheeler to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service.
“If the Commission fails to restore common carriage to our nation’s central communications network, we are ensuring that future generations of Americans will not be able to send the information of their choosing, between points of their choosing, without undue discrimination,” the group says in a letter to Wheeler. “Is the Commission really prepared to tell our children that if they want to act like their parents and grandparents and make a voice call using a landline or wireless phone, they know that call will connect and won’t be of inferior quality, and they won’t be price gouged for it; but if they instead choose to communicate through their natural medium of data, they get no legal protections against undue discrimination?”
Free Press isn't the only one urging the FCC to move on neutrality. Five Democratic senators warned Wheeler this week that the recent appellate court ruling gutting neutrality rules “threatens the freedom of innovators to compete on an open, neutral platform.”
“We urge you to quickly adopt enforceable rules to prevent the blocking and discrimination of Internet traffic,” the lawmakers say in a letter to Wheeler. “Without such rules in place, Internet service providers are prone to act as gatekeepers of the Internet, controlling access by blocking or throttling certain content and thereby limiting the opportunities for innovation, speech and commerce.”
The letter was signed by Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).