FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Defends Rules That Will Destroy Internet As We Know It

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Common Dreams

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Defends Rules That Will Destroy Internet As We Know It

Wheeler’s excuses for protecting consumers and the principle of the "open internet" aren’t convincing anyone, say critics

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler defended the agency's net neutrality plan. (AFP-Getty Images / April 30, 2014)

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler defended the agency's net neutrality plan. (AFP-Getty Images / April 30, 2014)

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler just "doesn't get it."

That's what defenders of the "Open Internet" are saying in response to new comments made by Wheeler on Wednesday in which he once again tried to defend new broadband rules that would imperil the fair and equal treatment of both content and customers by allowing internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon to create for-profit "fast lanes" on their broadband networks.

Speaking at the annual conference of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Wheeler tried to deflect criticism of his approach by saying his opponents are "misinterpreting" what he's put forth. According to Wheeler, his newly proposed rules won't permit the corporate owners of broadband network to push some content into a "slow lane" while allowing others priority access and said: "If someone acts to divide the Internet between 'haves' and 'have nots,' we will use every power at our disposal to stop it."

"The future of the open Internet can’t rest on the supposed good intentions of one chairman. Internet users and innovators need the certainty that comes with common carriage, not Wheeler’s ‘just trust me’ approach to stopping harmful behavior from providers." —Craig Aaron, Free Press

But Craig Aaron, president and CEO of the media reform group Free Press, argues that Wheeler's comments in Los Angeles—which were also mirrored on the official FCC blog—only prove how dangerously out of touch the chairman has become with the implications of what he's proposing.

In a scathing rebuttal to Wheeler's comments, Aaron released the following statement:

Tom Wheeler still doesn’t get it. People aren’t flooding his phone lines and filling his in-box because they’re confused about his proposal. They understand all too well that his plan would create a pay-to-prioritize Internet with fast lanes for the few. There’s a better way to protect the public, and Chairman Wheeler’s excuses for not taking that path aren’t convincing anyone.

If the chairman truly wants to do right by the Internet and avoid losing another costly court battle, he should follow the letter of the Communications Act, exercise the FCC’s clear authority and reclassify Internet service providers as common carriers. It’s not only the most sensible and courageous approach, it’s also the quickest way to bring a final resolution to this issue. And it’s the only approach that puts the needs of Internet users first.

The future of the open Internet can’t rest on the supposed good intentions of one chairman. Internet users and innovators need the certainty that comes with common carriage, not Wheeler’s ‘just trust me’ approach to stopping harmful behavior from providers.

Mr. Wheeler needs to realize that the push for reclassification is about much more than Net Neutrality. Title II isn’t something that he holds in his back pocket to use at a later date. It’s the law Congress intended to apply to these vital services, so that users would be free to communicate without unjust online discrimination.

In order to fight the new rules, Free Press and other groups have urged concerned citizens to "drop everything and take action" to save the internet. As part of this effort, groups are planning a day of action outside FCC headquarters on May 15th.

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