FCC Charts New Path for Net Neutrality

by Matt Klassen on February 20, 2014

It’s been a winding circuitous path for Net Neutrality over the last few years, and it looks like things aren’t about to change any time soon. In fact, having failed every legal challenge to its Net Neutrality standards to date, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced this week that he’s taking a different direction in his attempt to finally find legal footing for establishing a free and open internet.

As part of the Commission’s latest plan, Wheeler explained, that he will not be challenging the courts’ decision to strike down the current Net Neutrality framework last month, acknowledging the court’s findings that the FCC had no legal grounding to enforce Net Neutrality standards based on its own definitions.

Instead, the agency will follow the advice of the courts, rewriting its argument for Net Neutrality in order to legally establish its authority to issue and enforce rules for an open Internet, abandoning its attempt to reclassify broadband providers as “common carriage,” an option the White House clearly supports, in favour of rewriting the rules entirely.

In his statement Wheeler reiterated that despite the latest setback to his agency’s Net Neutrality standards that the fight for an open Internet is not dead, noting that the court had invited the FCC to find a different path to justify its standards. Wheeler made it clear that he intends “to accept that invitation by proposing rules that will meet the court’s test for preventing improper blocking of and discrimination among Internet traffic, ensuring genuine transparency in how Internet service providers manage traffic, and enhancing competition.”

Wheeler further emphasized that unlike previous legal decision regarding Net Neutrality that the court has affirmed the FCC’s legal authority to govern the rules of the road on the information superhighway, as part of Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

“The court recognized the importance of ensuring that so-called edge providers, those that use the network to deliver goods and services, can reach people who use the Internet,” he said. “And it upheld the Commission’s judgment that Internet freedom encourages broadband investment and that its absence could ultimately inhibit broadband deployment.”

As mentioned, Wheeler’s announcement that the Commission will rewrite the rules of Net Neutrality means that the FCC will not be pursuing reclassification, which would have seen broadband carriers included as common carriage, making the industry subject to current telecommunication regulations. Instead, the new rules will find new legal footing for Net Neutrality, one that might end this ongoing saga once and for all.

Simply put, after several years of watching the FCC ineptly bumble what is a worthy and notable cause, we may have finally witnessed the first significant step towards establishing legally enforceable standards to create and preserve an open Internet, and the most amazing thing is that this new path emerged out of one of Net Neutrality’s most crushing defeats.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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