FCC NPRM Contains Many Questions, Few Solid Net Neutrality Proposals

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2014-05-17 Print this article Print

"If the commission were to ultimately rely on a source of authority other than section 706 to adopt a legal standard for broadband provider practices, such as Title II," the commission asks in the NPRM, "we seek comment on whether and, if so, how we should prohibit all, or some, pay-for-priority arrangements, consistent with our authority, to protect and promote Internet openness."

What's missing from the NPRM are some detailed and specific proposals for what the new FCC rules might contain, while still staying within the constraints of the federal courts. "In this notice, we propose to adopt rules to protect and promote the open Internet," the FCC says in its proposal

But how the FCC plans to reach this goal is still not clear. Unlike many NPRMs, this one does not really contain much in the way of what the FCC would actually like to do, which is a big change from past practices in which a completed rule was presented for comment. Now the agency is asking for input as to what it should do from anyone with an interest.

In fact, it almost seems as if the commission is considering a total revamp of how it regulates the big Internet providers. "What factors should the commission keep in mind as it considers whether to revisit its prior decisions? Have there been changes to the broadband marketplace that should lead us to reconsider our prior classification decisions?" the NPRM asks.

What's important to remember is that, with this chairman, the emphasis of an NPRM is to let people know that the FCC wants to create a new rule, in this case for regulating the Internet. He also is asking people to tell the commission what they actually want in any rules that are made.

This is different from past practices in which the rule was made, essentially cast in stone, and then made available for comments. This apparent attempt to find a grand consensus is something new at the FCC.

As far as to what Tom Wheeler wants, what he says is this: "I strongly support an open, fast and robust Internet. This agency supports an Open Internet. There is ONE Internet. Not a fast Internet, not a slow Internet; ONE Internet." That doesn't sound to me like fast lanes for those who can pay and slow lanes for everyone else.

But it's what Wheeler says next in his statement on the NPRM that makes it clear that this is a work in progress, "What we are dealing with today is a proposal, not a final rule. With this notice we are specifically asking for input on different approaches to accomplish the same goal: an Open Internet."



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