We finally know where FCC chairman Tom Wheeler stands on network neutrality rules: squarely in front of Washington’s army of industry lobbyists, leading the way. When rumors began circulating last week that commissioners were looking at draft rules that would allow Internet service providers to charge web-based businesses extra for speeding their packets along to consumers, Wheeler’s response was exactly what you would expect from a man who spent 20 years as a telecoms lobbyist himself…
There has been a great deal of misinformation that has recently surfaced regarding the draft Open Internet Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that we will today circulate to the Commission…The Notice does not change the underlying goals of transparency, no blocking of lawful content, and no unreasonable discrimination among users established by the 2010 Rule. The Notice does follow the roadmap established by the Court as to how to enforce rules of the road that protect an Open Internet and asks for further comments on the approach.
Translation: my lobbyist friends and I don’t think charging Netflix for a fast lane to users is unreasonable and it sorta doesn’t block other content, so with sufficient phony indignation I can get away with calling it net neutrality.
The problem isn’t so much what he’s proposing – there are good reasons to be skeptical about pure network neutrality, as a federal judge and fellow commissioner Ajit Pai, among others, have argued in very straightforward terms. The problem is that he’s using beltway bandit bluster to try to convince everyone that he’s doing what he earlier promised to do, when in fact he’s not.
Network neutrality mean no discrimination between web services. Period. It is the height of disingenuousness to claim that speeding up delivery for some doesn’t result in a relative slow down for those who don’t pay. But that’s just cruising altitude for Washington’s new telecoms lobbyist-in-chief.