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FCC chairman stands by proposed net neutrality rules

FCC chairman stands by proposed net neutrality rules
The chairman of the United States Federal Communication Commission is continuing to stand by a proposal concerning the future of the so-called “Open Internet” this week despite ongoing criticism.

In the midst of a cloud of negative attention surrounding a draft Open Internet Notice of Proposed Rulemaking document being considered by the FCC, the agency’s chairman, Thomas Wheeler, again attempted to quell concerns.

According to a blog post authored by Wheeler published on the FCC’s official blog on Tuesday, the chairman is committed to making sure proposed open internet rules won’t drastically erode the concept of net neutrality as critics have suggested.

Skeptics have voiced concerns that, if adopted, the draft document’s rules would let Internet Service Providers transmit data to end-users more quickly if the applicable content producers pay more to the ISPs.

Such concerns, Wheeler wrote on Tuesday, miss the point. “The proposed rule is built to ensure that everyone has access to an Internet that is sufficiently robust to enable consumers to access the content, services and applications they demand, as well as an Internet that offers innovators and edge providers the ability to offer new products and services,” he wrote.

Approval of these guidelines would not create a “fast lane” for the web as some have suggested, Wheeler wrote, and any attempts to do as much would be “shut down” by the FCC.

“At the heart of the proposed NPRM is the assurance that it won’t be possible for an Internet provider to degrade the service available to all,” Wheeler wrote. “Let me re-emphasize that: the Internet will remain like it is today, an open pathway. If a broadband provider (ISP) acts in a manner that keeps users from effectively taking advantage of that pathway then it should be a violation of the Open Internet rules.”

On Wednesday, Wheeler told the audience at the annual meeting of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association in Los Angeles that “reports that we are gutting the Open Internet rules are incorrect,” according to TIME.

“If you read some of the press accounts about what we propose to do, those of you who oppose net neutrality might feel like a celebration was in order,” Wheeler said. “Reports that we are gutting the Open Internet rules are incorrect. I am here to say ‘wait a minute.’ Put away the party hats.”

"Let me be clear. If someone acts to divide the Internet between 'haves' and 'have-nots,' we will use every power at our disposal to stop it," Wheeler insisted.

In the midst of a wave of criticism that erupted last week, Wheeler responded at the time that, “To be very direct, the proposal would establish that behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted.”

First, however, the five-person FCC board will have to decide if they want to move forward with the guidelines presented to them last week. Reuters reported that the agency will vote on May 15 on Wheeler’s proposed rules. In the meantime, though, the FCC will likely see criticism only continue to mount up: earlier this week, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) became the latest American lawmaker to oppose Wheeler’s proposal, and wrote in a letter to the chairman that his plan to let companies pay for preferential access to ISPS and ergo internet customers would “destroy” the concept of net neutrality.

"Your proposal would grant Verizon, Comcast, and other ISPs the power to pick winners and losers on the Internet, which violates core Net neutrality principles that you have publicly supported in the past. Although you claim that this proposal is not a ‘turnaround,’ it is difficult to understand how it does not flatly contradict your own Commission's Open Internet Order,” Franken wrote, according to CNET.