Federal Communications Commission chairman
At an appearance at the
“It now falls to the new FCC—and to those who advocate before it and the Congress—to determine the road they want to take from here,” Wheeler said. “One path leads forward, and the other leads back to re-litigating solutions that are demonstrably working.”
Neutering net neutrality
Wheeler spent most of his talk defending the
The FCC’s adoption of these rules in
January 20 will bring
In Friday’s speech, Wheeler implored them not to do that.
“Where’s the fire?” he asked. “What happened since the Open Internet rules were adopted to justify uprooting the policy?”
Historical and business cases for an open internet
Net neutrality as a political argument is fairly novel—the term only entered wide circulation after
“The idea of an open network goes back as far as the ‘first-come-first-served’ traffic management of the telegraph,” said Wheeler, who years before leading the FCC wrote
“Telephone networks’ common carrier status was an extension of this concept that was warranted by a behavioral legacy and a demonstrated exercise of monopoly power,” he said, adding that an open phone network “allowed America to go online.”
Critics of net-neutrality rules have argued that they cramp investment in broadband by phone and cable companies.
Wheeler said US broadband investment rose over his term to hit $76 billion in 2015, but the
Wheeler added that more efficient network construction meant 2015 dollars went further than 2013 upgrades.
As evidence, he cited AT&T (
What comes next?
Wheeler suggested that the next generation of smart devices, from virtual and augmented reality to Internet of Things gadgets to self-driving cars, needed an open internet: “They all have developed on the assumption that connectivity will be fast, fair and open.”
“IoT” devices like connected light bulbs and washers don’t need much bandwidth, but more data-intensive uses like VR and cloud-hosted apps will.
“If ISPs get to choose which applications and clouds work better than others in terms of access speed and latency, they will control the cloud future,” Wheeler said.
He warned against softening net-neutrality rules to cover only blocking, throttling or paid prioritization, saying the FCC must retain “general conduct” oversight authority that lets it flag other kinds of abuse of power by network gatekeepers.
“We must be alert to name-only, so-called net-neutrality policies that actually retreat from the protections that exist today,” he said.
As evidence, Wheeler pointed to recent moves by AT&T and Verizon (
Wheeler correctly noted that a future FCC won’t be able to reverse course quickly, thanks to laws requiring administrative agencies such as the commission to justify their decisions by proving that circumstances have changed. But that will soon be out of his hands, along with the fate of such other recent FCC projects as
Looking past January 20, he could only offer one word, drawn from a line in