Big news on net neutrality: FCC Chairman Wheeler all but confirmed today that he plans to propose a rule reclassifying the Internet as a Title II telecommunications service next month. If you’ve been following the debate over net neutrality, you know what this means. And if you haven’t, well, this is huge.
Last year, when a federal court threw out the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Rules, it essentially told the FCC to go back to the drawing board. The FCC, a federal agency, had a couple of choices: attempt to rewrite rules that would protect an open Internet using the same legal authority the Court already said wouldn’t work, or reclassify the Internet as a telecommunications service under Title II. Only under that second option would the FCC have the legal authority it needs to enforce real net neutrality. Which is, of course, why the cable companies and entrenched interests hate the idea. And why we love it.
Which brings us back to today. Despite months of lobbying by net neutrality opponents, today Chairman Wheeler, in a speech at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, made his most emphatic statement to-date in favor of Title II reclassification. He told the packed room that his thinking has evolved, and while he originally believed that he could protect an open Internet using a “commercially reasonable” standard without reclassification, he’s changed his mind. Instead, he came to the conclusion—with which we agree— that "commercially reasonably" would really mean "commercially reasonable for ISPs," not the true innovators who depend on an open Internet. Chairman Wheeler also noted that the next wave of innovation would depend even more heavily on open access, particularly for innovations surrounding the Internet of Things. And with that, he signaled his support for what we have long believed is the only path forward: reclassification under Title II.
We are encouraged by the Chairman’s words today and look forward to seeing his proposal in writing early next month. But this fight is far from over. Many in Congress have promised to block any attempts at reclassification, so even with a victory at the FCC, our work here isn’t done. We promise you this, though: we’ll keep fighting on behalf of startups and their users to protect the open Internet and all that it means not just to the economy, but to all who use it. Today we got one step closer to that goal.