Following pushback from his Democratic colleagues and a deluge of public concerns, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is revising proposed Net neutrality regulations.
A previous proposal has raised wide concerns that the FCC would authorize broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast to charge content providers like Netflix a premium for faster access to the Internet, ostensibly creating fast and slow lanes on the Web.
An FCC official told The Wall Street Journal the new draft would seek comment on whether paid priority deals should be banned and look to prohibit big broadband providers from forging agreements with content companies on terms that aren’t offered to others. Wheeler also will make explicit that the agency will scrutinize agreements to ensure broadband providers don’t unfairly place nonpaying companies’ content at a disadvantage, the Journal said.
Last week, the FCC’s two Democratic commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai, called on the FCC to delay its May 15 meeting on Net neutrality. Some of the world’s biggest Internet companies – including Google, Facebook and Yahoo – have expressed grave concerns with Wheeler’s proposal.
“Tens of thousands of e-mails, hundreds of calls, commentary all across the Internet. We need to respect that input and we need time for that input,” Rosenworcel said during a speech in Washington, D.C. “So while I recognize the urgency to move ahead and develop rules with dispatch, I think the greater urgency comes in giving the American public opportunity to speak right now, before we head down this road.”
The FCC was unsuccessful in its previous attempt to regulate the Internet after a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. overturned the regulations. Any further attempts to regulate the Internet are expected to be challenged as well.
In a speech last month before the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, Wheeler vowed to protect consumers’ access to the Internet.
“We will not allow some companies to force users into a slow lane so that others with special privileges can have superior service,” Wheeler declared.