FCC Chairman Unveils Plan to Protect Net Neutrality

By Elizabeth Holland

This week, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler announced a proposal to regulate broadband Internet service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, protecting net neutrality by reclassifying the Internet as a public utility. The Commission is expected to vote on the Chairman’s plan on February 26.

AALL applauds the decision of Chairman Wheeler to rely on Title II of the Communications Act and Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the authority for which we advocated in our July comments to the FCC. Reclassification under Title II would subject Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to common carrier rules that better ensure equal, nondiscriminatory access to content on the Internet and require ISPs to operate more transparently. In an op-ed on Wired.com published Wednesday, Chairman Wheeler wrote, “Using [Title II], I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services….My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.”

While Open Internet advocates, content providers like Twitter and Netflix, and many Congressional Democrats lauded the Chairman’s decision, the proposed reclassification drew criticism from others. Senator John Thune, who recently floated legislation to restrict the FCC’s authority on net neutrality, said in a statement, “Chairman Wheeler’s proposal to regulate the Internet as a public utility is not about net neutrality – it is a power grab for the federal government by the chairman of a supposedly independent agency who finally succumbed to the bully tactics of political activists and the president himself.” Meanwhile, ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon look poised to sue. With the late February vote fast approaching, legal challenges could make for a more drawn out process.

Net neutrality is critical to law libraries, their missions, and their patrons. AALL urges to the Commission to adopt the Chairman’s proposal.

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