Wheeler to cable industry: 'Open Internet rules will be tough and enforceable'

LOS ANGELES--FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler didn't beat around the bush when he took the stage at the The Cable Show here, telling the cable industry that the FCC is not "gutting the open Internet."  He clarified by saying the commission is focused on maintaining a broadly available fast and robust internet.   

Tom Wheeler at The Cable Show 2014

Wheeler addresses The Cable Show attendees. (Screencap via NCTA Cable / YouTube)

"I'm here to say 'wait a minute,' put away the party hats," Wheeler said. "The open Internet rules will be tough and will be enforceable."

Wheeler, of course, was referring to the FCC's decision to write a new set of net neutrality rules aimed at preventing broadband providers like Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) from throttling traffic from Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) and other online video providers. The proposed changes have been criticized for not doing enough to prevent bandwidth "toll lanes" from being created by major ISPs.

This decision came about after the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned part of the FCC's previous Open Internet order in January, including those prohibiting ISPs from blocking content.  

Wheeler directed his remarks specifically to the cable industry, which he regards as the principal providers of the nation's broadband connectivity, and added that the commission is open to input. "All options are on the table," he said.

However, he also warned that the commission would enforce the new roles, once they are determined. "Prioritizing some traffic by forcing the rest of the traffic onto a congested lane won't be permitted under any proposed open Internet rule," he said.  And that he added that he would considering using Title II to enforce them. "I will not hesitate to use Title II if warranted," he said.

Title II refers to the FCC designating a broadband provider a Title II common carrier service, a strategy that was lauded by consumer group Public Knowledge. "We're pleased to see the Chairman recognize Title II as a legitimate option for going forward with strong net neutrality rules. We are also encouraged to hear him reiterate his opposition to fast lanes on the internet, and his recognition that all Americans deserve access to a 'broadly available, fast and robust' web experiences," said Michael Weinberg, vice president at Public Knowledge, in a statement.

Wheeler went on to encourage the cable industry to use its leadership in broadband to provide schools and libraries with high speed connections at a reasonable cost. In addition, he lauded AT&T's recently announced plans to expand fiber to 100 communities. He said he hopes the cable industry responds in a similar manner, noting that AT&T's announced plans are in response to the competitive threat of Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) fiber service. "This is not dissimilar to DBS," Wheeler said. "I hope you respond in a similar manner."

For more:
- see this release
- and the NCTA video of Wheeler's speech

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