FCC Called to Defend Net Neutrality Development Process

by Matt Klassen on March 20, 2015

The Federal Communications Commission’s Net Neutrality regulations were made without undo involvement or pressure from any outside influence, including President Obama, Chairman Tom Wheeler told a House subcommittee this week.

In early November President Obama went public with the White House’s concerns over the need for an open Internet, a speech that succinctly embodied the Net Neutrality rules that we saw implemented earlier this month. Given that around the time of the speech the FCC changed the course of Net Neutrality towards what we now see today, opposition has argued, it stands as clear evidence that the Commission, an independent entity, was inappropriately swayed by the White House.

This suspicion was enough for a House subcommittee to compel Wheeler to explain the process the Commission went through to develop the recently introduced open Internet regulations in an attempt to discover whether the President had an inappropriate and inordinate amount of influence on the process. During the questioning Wheeler defended the FCC’s reclassification of broadband service as a public utility, saying the decision was made independently and appropriately, and that Wheeler was free of pressure from any outside sources…save for the pressure from millions of Americans of course.

“Ever since the Internet was created, it’s been organized around basic principles of openness, fairness and freedom,” President Obama said regarding Net Neutrality in November. “There are no gatekeepers deciding which sites you get to access. There are no toll roads on the information superhighway,” he said. “Abandoning these principles would threaten to end the Internet as we know it.”

It was this statement, Republicans say, which unduly influenced the development of the FCC’s Net Neutrality protocols, as before that the Commission had publicly admitted it was taking its regulations along a different, more industry friendly, path. But that, Wheeler has maintained, is simply untrue.

“There were no secret instructions from the White House,” Wheeler said. “I did not, as CEO of an independent agency, feel obligated to follow the president’s recommendation.”

As the FCC explained when these allegations were first levelled against Net Neutrality last month, “Chairman Wheeler welcomed the president’s point of view, as he welcomed the millions of Americans who made their views known,” a spokesman for the FCC said in an email. “After a yearlong process, Chairman Wheeler put forward a proposal that uses every tool in the toolbox to make sure the Internet stays fast, fair, and open for all Americans.”

So did the President have a say in the development of Net Neutrality? Absolutely, as did millions of other people who, in one unified voice, cried out for the establishment of an open Internet.

But if you’re looking for the reason the FCC changed the planned structure of Net Neutrality there are clearly two people to blame: Appeals Court Judge David Tatel and comedian John Oliver. It was Judge Tatel who gave the FCC the impetus for reclassifying Net Neutrality, noting in the FCC’s seemingly crushing legal defeat in FCC v Verizon last year that the Commission should be able to regulate broadband service, it just needed to find the appropriate legal grounding to do so, and it was Oliver, several months later, who rallied millions of Americans to cripple the FCC’s public comment website with requests for the reclassification of the Internet as a public utility.

So while it may be a damning critique of our society that a judge and a comedian wield more influence on public opinion than the President, it is, in fact, the truth, meaning the Republicans are simply barking up the wrong tree.

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

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