Wheeler Warns Against Nixing Net Neutrality Rules
The Republicans on the Federal Communications Commission have said they plan to repeal the net neutrality rules at the first opportunity.
Today, outgoing Federal Communications Commission Chair Tom Wheeler warned against doing so. “Tampering with the rules means taking away protections consumers and the online world enjoy today,” he said in a farewell speech delivered at the Aspen Institute. “A hands-off approach to network oversight is more than a shift in direction, it is a decision to remove rights and move backward.”
The rules, which took effect in June of 2015, prohibit Internet service providers from blocking or degrading content and from charging companies higher fees for prioritized delivery. The regulations also include a “general conduct” standard that broadly bans providers from hindering the ability of Web users and content companies to connect online.
Wheeler went on to outline the reasons why repealing the rules would be a bad move.
“What has happened since the Open Internet rules were adopted to justify uprooting the policy?” he asked. “Network investment is up, investment in innovative services is up, and ISPs revenues — and stock prices — are at record levels. So, where’s the fire?”
He added that reversing the order “is not a slam dunk,” thanks to the Administrative Procedure Act — a statute that sets out the procedures agencies must follow when passing new rules. “The effort to undo an open Internet will face the high hurdle, imposed by the Administrative Procedure Act, of a fact-based showing that so much has changed in just two short years that a reversal is justified,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler added that net neutrality rules will become even more crucial in the future.
“I’ve seen machine-learning artificial intelligence build an aircraft wing at Boeing. I’ve seen augmented reality assist and improve human activities at Microsoft. I’ve seen virtual reality transform information consumption at Facebook. I’ve ridden in autonomous cars at both The Ohio State University and the University of Michigan,” he said. “What is significant about these — and so many other next-generation applications — is they don’t happen without network connectivity. They all have developed on the assumption that connectivity will be fast, fair and open.”