When FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was appointed, the cable and telecommunications giants tried to hide grins while public advocates worried about having a lobbyist with industry ties replace Genachowski. The tide has shifted a few times now, but today it's definitely all the way back the other way with the new net neutrality rules Wheeler is proposing this week.
The policy wonks will dissect the details, but Wheeler's editorial today over on Wired doesn't mince words. The gist is: a modernization of Title II to cover the internet, full application to wireless as well as wired access, and bright line rules against paid prioritization, throttling, etc. In short, Obama asked for it, and he got every bit of it. Of course, there might be loopholes in there we haven't seen yet, but there's even a 'general conduct rule' that will let the FCC quickly respond to new stuff that comes up that isn't already covered.
The vote is set for later this month. Assuming it passes 3-2 as seems likely, we can look forward to the first lawsuit probably landing within hours. Whatever window there may have been for a middle-of-the-road compromise solution is now pretty much closed. I wish it weren't so, but the fact is that no one was really lining up behind any compromises anyway.
Soon we'll get to see what the lawyers come up with to torpedo Title II. You know they've been working on it for a while now, I'm sure they've got an angle prepared to take the fight to the Federal judiciary. At least, I don't think the industry is dumb enough to put all its cards on Congress passing a bill to stop Wheeler, let alone one that can override a certain veto.
For the consumer, nothing much will change in the short term. That is, unless something is buried in the details that would give either Netflix or Verizon/Comcast/AT&T a leg up against the last mile at the interconnection layer. That's one of the bigger pieces Wheeler's editorial didn't touch on much.
And almost voiceless in the battle this year have been the smaller carriers and fiber builders/operators who would really like to be the counterbalance to the incumbents but without all the strings Title II could bring. They really need to find a more effective way to affect things.
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