However, during the period of time between the court decisions and the release of the Title II recommendation, Wheeler was working on another compromise proposal that would maintain the commission's favored light touch approach to Internet regulation. That ended when President Obama announced to the world that he preferred using Title II as a way to ensure net neutrality.
Because the commission has a Democratic majority, its marching orders were clear and Title II it was. But it's important to remember that this is taking place in Washington, which means that just because something appears to be Title II, that doesn't mean it's really Title II. This resulted in a lot of wasted advertising money on the part of some pressure groups and some in politics.
For example, the group Broadband for America ran an incessant stream of commercials on Washington radio stations that consisted of ads saying that Title II would result in huge increases in taxes and fees on the Internet. But it was clear from the FCC's fact sheet that this wasn't the case, and BFA abruptly canceled its ads.
Other groups have decried the way that Title II would eliminate innovation on the Internet because it would impose too much government regulation. But now it appears that what the FCC is planning is actually eliminating limits on the Internet. Perhaps more relevant, for the past few years mobile broadband operators have been classified under Title III with rules that are essentially the same as Title II, but which allowed mobile phone companies to place some limits on use.
Those mobile operators will now be subject to Title II regulations, but during their time under Title III, there's no indication that there was any adverse effect on innovation or business growth. In fact, during this time it would be hard to classify the growth in mobile communications as anything other than explosive.
Still there will be changes. For example, it's hard to see how T-Mobile will be able to continue offering some music services for free while charging others against a customer's data usage. Other carriers may not be able to play favorites for their own on-demand video services while charging data usage fees for others. But in all honesty, these are not major bumps in the road.
If there are obstacles, they're likely to show up once the full proposal is available. Right now, all we can see are the broad strokes of what the chairman has in mind. But Congress can change things with legislation, especially if it's a compromise acceptable in both houses and to the White House.
Right now, unfortunately, we're in a finger pointing war with no way to know what's really up at the FCC until Feb. 26, when the commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal. Maybe that's what the FCC has in mind—to keep us all guessing until it releases the final, detailed proposal, so when it's finally revealed, it looks far better than everyone's fears.