FCC’s Net Neutrality Plan Puts Wireless Carriers on Edge

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler testifies on Capitol Hill on Dec. 12, 2013. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler testifies on Capitol Hill on Dec. 12, 2013. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)


(CNet) – For once, Tom Wheeler is leaving wireless carriers wanting more.

In an op-ed piece published on Wednesday, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission laid out his proposal to treat both wired and wireless data services as public utilities under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. If Wheeler’s rules pass, broadband providers — like Verizon and AT&T — will have to deal with greater regulatory oversight compared with the “light touch” they get now as information services.

Wheeler waved an olive branch of sorts yesterday, saying he won’t apply Title II’s most onerous rules, including having the FCC tell broadband companies the rates they can charge.

The FCC, which has been debating new rules ever since the old ones were thrown out a year ago, is using the rule change as an opportunity to redefine what it means to be an Internet service provider. Wheeler is basing his change on Title II and one of its key policies: the principle of the common carrier, which forbids businesses from unfairly discriminating between customers. Wheeler wants to apply that concept to the Internet — mandating that Internet service providers treat all traffic equally and preventing them from creating “fast lanes” that would allow some businesses to pay for priority access to their online customers. People refer to this as Net neutrality.


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