FCC Chairman Defends Net Neutrality Regulations

by Matt Klassen on March 6, 2015

Tom Wheeler, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, defended his Net Neutrality regulations at the Mobile World Congress this week, saying opposition to the plan are flat out wrong in their presentation of how such Open Internet standards will impact the the broadband industry.

According to Wheeler the fears of Net Neutrality detractors are unwarranted, and he ensured everyone that broadband players who play by the rules set forth will be largely unaffected by his “light touch” interpretation and imposition of the new regulations. “This is no more regulating the Internet than the First Amendment regulates free speech in our country,” Wheeler said in a fireside chat Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress trade show.

So what really changes now that Net Neutrality standards have been imposed? Aside from curbing an unscrupulous trend of carriers favouring certain traffic over others and the arbitrary throttling of certain heavy data users, not much really changes, but that’s sort of the point. The entire goal here is not to change the path of the development of the Internet, but to keep it on the right path; something far too important to leave up to service providers and other stakeholders to do.

As expected many of the US cable and internet service providers oppose Net Neutrality, arguing that such regulation–particularly now that the Internet has been reclassified as a ‘common carrier,’ or public utility, under Title II of the Communications Act—will stifle innovation and hinder investment.

In fact, the industry has vocally challenged Wheeler’s regulations, arguing that while they’re pro-consumer in the short term, they won’t be so in the long term, given that it will hurt investment.

But are any of those fears warranted? As Wheeler said in an interview this week, “No, no, no, no!” He made it abundantly clear to the moderator of a fireside chat at the MWC this week that his rules “wouldn’t dictate rates, impose tariffs, open up carriers’ networks to competitors or meddle with their business.”

What’s interesting, though, is that those who oppose Net Neutrality seem to know that they really have no idea what they’re talking about. Ralph de la Vega, CEO of AT&T’s business and mobility unit, was one who said he’ll likely withhold final judgment until he sees Net Neutrality in action.

“Sometimes it’s the nuances and details that explain whether there is a concern in an area or not,” de la Vega said in an interview. “Until everybody reads the fine print and understands it, you won’t really be able comment in detail.

Not that waiting will curb the onslaught of legal challenges we’ll likely see against Net Neutrality this year, but at least such a position of wait-and-see sounds reasonable.

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

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