The debate over FCC Chairman Wheeler’s proposal for new Open Internet (a/k/a Net Neutrality) rules became more animated today as both of his fellow Democratic Commissioners called on him to either delay or revisit his proposal. That proposal is scheduled to be considered at the FCC’s May 15, 2014, Open Meeting. (See TMI’s previous Blogs, “FCC Announces Next Moves on Net Neutrality,” dated 2/19/14; “FCC’s Wheeler “Sets the Record Straight” On New Open Internet Rules,” dated 4/24/1; “FCC’s Wheeler Defends His Position on Net Neutrality,” dated 5/1/14).
In a May 7, 2014, Blog posting, Commissioner Clyburn opened by saying: “Over 100,000 Americans have spoken. And during the past few weeks, tens of thousands of consumers, companies, entrepreneurs, investors, schools, educators, healthcare providers and others have reached out to ask me to keep the Internet free and open.” She went on to say that although she normally does not comment in advance about items being circulated among the Commissioners, “given the high level of attention and the outpouring of expression on the notice of proposed rulemaking on Open Internet, I felt it was important to highlight my previously stated views.”
Referencing her statement on the FCC’s 2010 rules, she noted that she would have: (1) applied the fixed rules to mobile services.; (2) prohibited pay for priority arrangements altogether; (3) made an open Internet available to all end users and encouraged the FCC to carefully monitor whether the exceptions in the Order jeopardized the principle that an open Internet truly is available to everyone; and (4) preferred a different regulatory scheme.
Commissioner Clyburn emphasized that she sees the remand as “a unique opportunity for us to take a fresh look and evaluate our policy in light of the many developments that have occurred over the last four years. There is no doubt that preserving and maintaining a free and open Internet is fundamental to the core values of our democratic society, and I have an unwavering commitment to its independence. My mind remains open as I continue to evaluate how best to promote these fundamental, core values.”
On the same day, Commissioner Rosenworcel gave a speech at the Chief Officers Of State Library Agencies meeting and said she had “real concerns about FCC Chairman Wheeler’s proposal on network neutrality.” Citing the “torrent of public response” his proposal received, Commissioner Rosenworcel said that the FCC should delay its consideration of the proposed rules “by at least a month.” She added, “I believe that rushing headlong into a rulemaking next week fails to respect the public response to his proposal.”
Commissioner Rosenworcel credited Chairman Wheeler for keeping all options on the table, including a discussion about what a “commercially reasonable” Internet fast lane looks like. However, she also said that “While I do not know now where this conversation will head on a substantive basis, I can tell you right now I have real concerns about process.” Additionally, she expressed concern that Sunshine period, during which the FCC cannot accept public comment starts on May 8. “I think it’s a mistake to cut off public debate right now as we head into consideration of the Chairman’s proposal. So again, at a minimum, we should delay the onset of our Sunshine rules.” She went on to suggest a more public discussion of the issues saying that “we have a challenging set of court decisions that have led us to this point. So I think the agency’s legal staff should be holding forth, answering questions, and explaining what is before us with regular sessions—not in Washington, but over the Internet, through social media, and broadly accessible to the public.”