Coalition of the thinking emerges at FCC

by Steve Blum • , , , , ,

The typical – and intentionally designed – division within the FCC is partisan. Democrats and republicans control two commission seats each, with the chairman’s job going to whichever party holds the White House. So it’s interesting when another kind of split develops.

Republican Ajit Pai and democrat Jessica Rosenworcel both called on chairman Tom Wheeler to delay consideration of new Internet regulations that would allow network operators to sell fast lanes to content companies willing and able to pay the price. Both commissioners are smart. When they speak off the cuff, their brains are clearly engaged. They give novel answers to unexpected questions, in clear and complete sentences. It sets them apart from their two colleagues, who lean on simple talking points and remain safely within party lines, and from Wheeler, whose raw zeal for deal making shines through a shallow intellect and a thick coat of phony gravitas.

Rosenworcel stepped out first, in a speech to a librarian’s conference last week

I have real concerns about FCC Chairman Wheeler’s proposal on network neutrality—which is before the agency right now. To his credit, he has acknowledged that all options are on the table. This includes discussion about what a “commercially reasonable” Internet fast lane looks like. While I do not know now where this conversation will head on a substantive basis, I can tell you right now I have real concerns about process. His proposal has unleashed a torrent of public response. Tens of thousands of e-mails, hundreds of calls, commentary all across the Internet. We need to respect that input and we need time for that input.

Pai, who has openly opposed net neutrality regulation all along, was quick to agree. Wheeler’s response was exactly what you would expect from a veteran lobbyist: refuse to budge on the substance of the requests by keeping to schedule, while trying to make it look like he’s agreeing by meaninglessly extending the window for public comment.

Commissioners take up net neutrality at their meeting on Thursday.