Wednesday, February 19, 2014

FCC Chairman Wheeler’s Open Internet Strategy Post Verizon v. FCC

            FCC Chairman Wheeler has released a statement outlining his thoughts on how the FCC lawfully can press on for open and neutral Internet access; see http://fcc.us/1c2RBzv.

             I appreciate what Chairman Wheeler has attempted to do: avoid any unlawful mission creep in light of the strong language in the Verizon decision, but also run as far as possible with Sec. 706 authority.  I do think the Commission can move forward with muscular transparency/disclosure requirements.  Just now Netflix subscribers don't know the cause of any service degradation so perhaps ISP disclosure requirements might provide some light on how frozen images came about even for subscribers to FIOS service operating at multi-megabit per second speeds.

    I do think the Chairman and the Commission will find a less than receptive D.C. Circuit should any order ignore the clear prohibition on the imposition of Title II common carrier requirements on ISPs.  I don't see much wiggle room in the no blocking, no discrimination area, nor am I as sanguine as the Chairman in terms of what deference the data roaming decision affords the FCC.  That decision emphasized the use of commercial negotiations and the limited role of the FCC and its ability to intervene. 

    One could draw a parallel between the duty to negotiate, commercially driven data roaming terms and conditions and the similar duty to negotiate retransmission consent between cable operators and local television broadcasters.  In both instances the FCC cannot act proactively and has limited powers even to resolve a protracted dispute. Unfortunately for broadband subscribers there won't be a specific "must see" television program that forces one side to capitulate, so degraded service and not so subtle abuses of last mile access may occur.

 

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