Two days ago President Obama delivered a speech discussing his stance on Net Neutrality, stating that the internet should be considered a common carrier, and that ISPs should not be allowed to control or in any way dictate the speeds of legal content on the internet. But the president’s speech does not seem to have been widely influential; it has not been commented on by any of the tech giants who have until now been the standard bearers of the open internet. It has instead been commented on by the opposition; notably, Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) responded to President Obama’s speech by reminding attendees of a meeting that occurred on the same day that the FCC does not respond to the President, but to Congress.
“I am an independent agency” is the official word on the issue.
The closest thing to a kind word to come out of Mr Wheeler’s statements is that President Obama made some good points, and the claim that the President wants “what everyone wants: an open Internet that doesn’t affect your business”. What isn’t clear is exactly how Mr. Wheeler sees this as occurring. Towards the end of last month an FCC report detailing a ‘hybrid’ plan was leaked to the media. The report outlined a two tier system for net neutrality; wholesale and retail. The wholesale tier would be the passage of information from content creators to end users via an ISP, while the retail tier would be transaction between end users of an ISP and the internet at large. This plan calms the fears that services like Netflix will suffer, as it is the wholesale tier that will be considered a common carrier. The biggest complaint against this plan is that is does nothing to address the problem of paid prioritization, going so far as to say that there is no problem with paid prioritization so long as it is ‘just and reasonable.’ Niether ‘just’ nor ‘reasonable’ are defined or given any kind of context.
Tom Wheeler is a former lobbyist for the cable and telecommunications industry, and many have used this as ground for accusations that he leans heavily towards the side of ISPs in this debate.
Earlier this morning it was announced that the FCC will not be making a decision on this decisive issue until 2015. The battle for the open internet will go on a little longer.