“Take no for an answer.”
— Ajit Pai, Republican FCC commissioner, says that’s what the agency should do about net neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission’s authority to impose and uphold rules concerning equal access to all Internet traffic has twice been rejected by an appeals court — in a victory for Comcast in 2010, then a win for Verizon yesterday. Troy Wolverton explains that the FCC rules themselves are part of the problem: The net neutrality rules the agency adopted in 2010 require that broadband providers act as “common carriers,” which are subject to strict rules. But the FCC long ago decided broadband providers are not common carriers.
For his part, new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in an extended blog post Tuesday: “The FCC’s legal ability — its jurisdiction — to oversee developments on the broadband networks on which the Internet depends is critically important. The Court’s decision addressed but one aspect of this authority. In the broad context, however, there is not any serious question about such authority.”
Coincidentally, four former FCC chairmen are scheduled to testify before a House subcommittee this morning. The topic: updating the Communications Act, which was last updated in 1996 and among other things addresses the FCC’s powers and includes regulations related to the Internet.
The projected losers after yesterday’s ruling: consumers, whose access to Internet content could be limited, changed or become more expensive; startups or small companies, which may not be able to afford to roll out or continue their offerings; and big companies, which may have to pony up fees to ensure their services are delivered to users smoothly and quickly. Venture capitalists and investors in companies both big and small could also feel a squeeze in returns on their investments.
Photo: Tom Wheeler, the new FCC chairman, in May 2013. Wheeler is a former cable and wireless industry lobbyist, but he has expressed support for the “open Internet.” (Mark Wilson/Getty Images via Abaca Press/MCT)