FCC Chairman Wheeler Issues Net Neutrality Statement, Calls for Public Comment

On February 19, 2014, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler issued a statement on the FCC’s Open Internet Rules. This statement, a response to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s ruling in Verizon v. FCC overturning the agency’s anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules, reaffirmed the FCC’s commitment to preserving a free and open internet. ARL’s statement regarding Verizon v. FCC can be found here.

Chairman Wheeler’ noted that while the D.C. Circuit overturned the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules, it affirmed the FCC’s broad authority to regulate under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act. Chairman Wheeler went on to say that the FCC would not appeal the D.C. Circuit’s judgment but would instead work to propose new rules under its Section 706 authority. He stated that the FCC “will carefully consider how, consistent with the court opinion” the agency can ensure that blocking and discrimination do not take place on the Internet.

Although it does not appear that the FCC will take steps to reclassify broadband providers as a telecommunication service from its current classification as information service at this time, it has not ruled out this possibility. Chairman Wheeler’s statement explicitly noted that “as long as Title II—with the ability to reclassify Internet access service as a telecommunications service—remains a part of the Communications Act, the Commission has the ability to utilize it if warranted” and such “authority remains open.”

Furthermore, Chairman Wheeler noted that the FCC would be soliciting public comment and opened a new docket entitled “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet.” While no deadline has been set for comments, the docket states that “comments filed within the next thirty days will be especially helpful.”