The move for the government to control the Internet took an insidious new turn, as FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler implied he would push harsher regulations that would categorize Internet service providers as public utilities.
Wheeler called the move “just and reasonable” when he spoke in Las Vegas at the International CES, a technology industry gadget show.
For Wheeler’ plans to come to fruition, he needs two other votes from the five member of the FCC on February 26. Wheeler stated he would issue his full plan on February 5.
Wheeler said almost a year ago that he would act in response to a federal appeals court ruling that jettisoned previous standards preserving “net neutrality,” which has been defined as the idea that “broadband Internet service providers should provide nondiscriminatory access to Internet content, platforms, etc., and should not manipulate the transfer of data regardless of its source or destination.” He said then that he might support a two-tiered system allowing the bigger service providers to separate traffic into either fast or slow lanes, which would hinder start-up companies.
But Wednesday, Wheeler came around to Barack Obama’s position favoring government control of the Internet, saying, “You want to make sure that innovators and consumers have open access to the networks.” Ted Cruz (R-TX) said of Obama’s position, “It puts the government in charge of determining Internet pricing, terms of service and what types of products and services can be delivered, leading to fewer choices, fewer opportunities and higher prices for consumers. The Internet should not operate at the speed of government.”
On the same day Wheeler spoke, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) said he wants the FCC to wait until Congress can offer a plan, asserting, “We think a legislative route is a better way to go, and we’ve developed some language that we think addresses a lot of the concerns that Democrats have raised — but does it without that heavy regulatory approach.”
Wheeler is determined to have his — and Obama’s — way, saying, “Clearly, we’re going to come out with what I hope will be the gold standard. And if Congress wants to come in and then say, ‘Well, we want to make sure that this approach doesn’t get screwed up by some crazy chairman that comes in,’” then those are “legitimate issues.”