Jan 13, 2017

Don't kill net neutrality, Wheeler says in farewell

On his way out the door, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told Republicans not to take away rules that are working and tols his allies to"stay vigilant" against such efforts.

The speech in a nutshell:

  • Net neutrality rules are critical to artificial intelligence, virtual reality, cloud-based technologies and the Internet of Things.
  • "No company using the internet is safe" if the rules treating broadband providers as so-called common carriers are unraveled.
  • Investment in web-based services is up, as are providers' revenue and stock prices; "So, where's the fire?"

The writing on the wall: The incoming Republican majority on the commission are widely expected to quickly start the process of reversing the rules, particularly the expansion of FCC oversight over broadband providers that comes with Title II. Congressional Republicans are gearing up to reverse Title II as well, and could try to limit FCC oversight powers more generally.

If you're a wonk: Overturning the net neutrality rules won't happen overnight. A federal court upheld the FCC's authority to adopt and enforce the net neutrality rules, meaning Republicans "will have a high hurdle to vault to prove to the same court why it's 2016 decision was wrong," Wheeler said.

While the FCC would need to go through a long process to roll back the rules, Congress could have an easier path with legislation. Rep. Greg Walden and Sen. John Thune, the committee leaders with jurisdiction over the FCC, are still strategizing. Meanwhile, new FCC leadership could simply decline to enforce the rules.

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