Two FCC Commissioners Voice Concerns About Net Neutrality Proposal

Next week, the full FCC is scheduled to vote on commission Chairman Tom Wheeler’s controversial proposal for new net neutrality rules. But judging by comments made this week by two of Wheeler’s fellow commissioners, it looks like this proposal won’t be moving forward without changes.

In a blog post on FCC.gov, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn writes about the huge amount of feedback the FCC has received from the public in recent weeks in response to Wheeler’s proposal that new net neutrality rules should allow for “fast lanes” that allow Internet service providers to charge content providers a premium for faster and better service.

“Over 100,000 Americans have spoken,” writes Clyburn, “tens of thousands of consumers, companies, entrepreneurs, investors, schools, educators, healthcare providers and others have reached out to ask me to keep the Internet free and open.”

The commissioner points out that, when drafting the FCC’s first attempt at net neutrality in 2010, she argued for prohibiting pay-for-priority arrangements altogether.

“I am listening to your voices as I approach this critical vote to preserve an ever-free and open Internet,” Clyburn tells those who have voiced their concerns about Wheeler’s draft.

Clyburn’s colleague, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, brought up the issue of net neutrality when speaking at a meeting of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies in D.C earlier this week.

“I have real concerns about FCC Chairman Wheeler’s proposal on network neutrality,” said Rosenworcel, who admitted that Wheeler’s 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.”

The commissioner understands the Chairman’s desire to move forward on net neutrality in an expedient fashion, but contends that “the greater urgency comes in giving the American public opportunity to speak right now, before we head down this road.”

Both commissioners Clyburn and Rosenworcel suggested delaying the vote of the full commission, but a rep for the FCC tells Reuters that the chairman fully intends to move forward with the May 15 vote.

“Chairman Wheeler fully supports a robust public debate on how best to protect the open Internet, which is why he intends to put forward his proposals for public comment next week,” said the rep. “Moving forward will allow the American people to review and comment on the proposed plan without delay, and bring us one step closer to putting rules on the books to protect consumers and entrepreneurs online.”

However, the comments made by Clyburn and Rosenworcel shed some doubt on whether or not Wheeler will be able to get his proposal through to the next stage, as the two other commissioners, Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly, have said they oppose the effort because they don’t believe the FCC currently has the authority to regulate ISPs in the way the net neutrality rules intend. Wheeler would need both Clyburn’s and Rosenworcel’s vote in order to move forward with his proposal.

The commissioners’ comments come at the same time as around 150 different e-commerce, content, infrastructure and other companies have written the FCC pleading for it to not allow discrimination via fast lanes.