FCC to Vote on Net Neutrality in February

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The debate on Internet regulation will be heating up soon, with word coming that a potentially more regulatory-aggressive FCC intends to vote on the matter as soon as February.

The issue is whether the FCC will rely on Title I or Title II of the Communications Act. At one point, it was thought that Obama’s telecom regulator Tom Wheeler would be open to additional input before calling a vote. That no longer appears to be the case.

President Obama’s top telecom regulator, Tom Wheeler, told fellow FCC commissioners before the Christmas holiday that he intends to circulate a draft proposal internally next month with an eye toward approving the measure weeks later, said one official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the agency’s deliberations are ongoing. The rules are meant to keep broadband providers such as Verizon and Comcast from speeding up or slowing down some Web sites compared to others.

FCC spokeswoman Kim Hart declined to comment on Wheeler’s communications with his colleagues, but confirmed the February timetable, which ends weeks of speculation as to when the FCC would make its next move.

News of a potentially more aggressive approach than first thought won’t come as good news to service providers or those in favor of a mostly unfettered Internet.

It’s still unclear what rules Wheeler has in mind for Internet providers. Analysts and officials close to the agency say that momentum has been building recently for far more aggressive regulations than Wheeler had initially proposed. Advocates of strong net neutrality, including President Obama, have urged the FCC to begin regulating Internet service providers using the same law it uses to oversee telephone companies — Title II of the Communications Act. Industry advocates have resisted that call, saying the FCC should continue to lightly regulate Internet providers under Title I of the act.