Today, The Washington Post and other media outlets are reporting that Wheeler is developing a plan to curtail or even void state laws that prohibit municipal broadband.
Separately, Bloomberg is reporting that the FCC proposes to review peering agreements. Netflix has complained that it has had to sign a peering agreement with Comcast, and with Netflix’s complicity the public has conflated the issue with network neutrality.
The indications are accumulating that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler isn’t backing off on any of his threats to bring the communications industry to heel.
Last week, the FCC revised the definition of broadband, from 4 Mbps to 25 Mbps.
And since late last year, when President Barack Obama implicitly endorsed Title II regulation of broadband, the FCC has been laying the groundwork for the reclassification.
The Commission’s next public meeting is on February 26, when it is expected to vote on all three measures.
Shortly after being appointed as FCC Commissioner, Wheeler explicitly stated his intention to abrogate state laws forbidding municipal broadband.
The industry objects to municipal broadband on the principle that governments should not compete with private interests. Many municipalities consider broadband a resource (not merely a service), and are tired of waiting for private interests, who some municipalities say are failing to satisfy their resource needs.
The Post quotes an unidentified senior FCC official saying the FCC is considering a draft decision to intervene against state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina that limit Internet access operated and sold by cities.
The Tennessee law is interesting because it limits an existing municipal network already up and running in Chattanooga, a deployment proponents of municipal broadband — including many Chattanooga residents — consider a particular success.
For more than a decade, the FCC has attempted to impose network neutrality principles. Many companies voluntarily conform to network neutrality principles; others have acknowledged the principles but stopped short of swearing to abide by them. In the few instances where the FCC has cited companies for violating network neutrality principles, the companies responded by suing on the grounds that the FCC has no authority to enforce network neutrality principles, and have won.
The FCC could secure the authority it needs to enforce network neutrality principles if it reclassifies broadband under Title II.
Theoretically, Title II gives the FCC the authority to also regulate broadband prices, but the FCC said it has no desire to, and Senator Ron Wyden said the FCC couldn’t if it wanted to, because it is expressly prohibited from doing so by the Internet Commerce Act, which he co-authored.
What qualifies as broadband gets redefined as a matter of course as technology advances. There is absolutely no argument that what constitutes broadband must get redefined from time to time. The objections with the FCC setting the definition at 25 Mbps seem to be that the new bar is too high at the moment, or that Commission activity represents government overreach.
Filed Under: Industry regulations