FCC gets an earful from all sides as it considers reclassifying broadband

As FCC chairman Thomas Wheeler mulls changes to net neutrality rules, representatives from all corners of the industry--from cable and telecom executives to Hollywood and Capitol Hill players--are giving him their two cents on the issue.

The FCC will release proposed new rules regulating the Internet on Thursday, and no one appears happy with what's been floated so far. The new rules are being crafted in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling in January that struck down the existing basis for the FCC's net neutrality guidelines. Wheeler's new proposed rules seek to prevent broadband providers from blocking or slowing down websites but would allow some content companies to pay for preferential treatment. He has also indicated he'll look at turning broadband service into a Title II service, which would treat the delivery mechanism as a common carrier or utility.

More than two dozen cable and telecom industry titans are begging the commission not to reclassify broadband as a Title II service, arguing that "the growth of the Internet and the rapid adoption of mobile technology have been great American success stories, made possible by a light regulatory touch for the entire online ecosystem." They went to say that imposing "common carrier-style regulation upon any part of the Internet would be a dangerous rejection of this successful policy course, potentially impeding the development and adoption of new Internet technologies and services, and threatening future investment in next-generation broadband infrastructure."

At the same time, Hollywood bigwigs are asking the FCC to make sure the Internet remains "free and open." In an open letter signed by 240 Hollywood showrunners and creators, the group wrote that "if Net Neutrality is neutered, the Internet will become like cable television. A few corporate gatekeepers such as Comcast will be allowed to decide what content consumers can access and on what terms. The danger is that blocking, discrimination and paid prioritization could occur."

"That is exactly what has occurred in our traditional film and television business," the content creators wrote. "After decades of consolidation and mergers, seven corporations control 95% of television production and viewing."

And not to be left out, ranking U.S. Senate and House members urged Wheeler to seek Congressional aid. In a letter signed by Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and others, the lawmakers urged Wheeler to ditch the net neutrality rules he's proposing and work with Congress to develop new statutes rather than "attempting further legal contortions to encumber modern communications networks with last century's rules."

The lawmakers agreed with the ISPs' notion that a light regulatory touch has "freed Internet innovators and users at the edge, the core, and the last mile to offer services, to build networks, and to buy and sell products based on market demand; no government permission has been necessary."

For more:
- see this Wall Street Journal article
- see this LA Times article
- see this Adweek article
- see this Consumerist article
- see this National Journal article
- see this Multichannel article

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