Amid widespread complaints from industry executives as well as some members of Congress, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is going back to the drawing board to revise proposed rules for regulating broadband access to the Internet. He promised the commission won't allow companies to create fast and slow lanes to segregate Web traffic.
Wheeler had proposed last month banning broadband providers from blocking or slowing down websites, but allowing them to strike deals in which companies could pay them for faster delivery of Web content to customers. But the pitch drew criticism from the tech sector, including Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX), both of which complained the new rules would segregate the Internet into fast and slow lanes.
Wheeler is sticking to his original approach, but is including language that would make clear the FCC will carefully scrutinize the deals to make sure broadband providers don't unfairly put non-paying companies' content at a disadvantage.
In a letter to Silicon Valley executives late last week, Wheeler wrote, "I will not allow some companies to force Internet use into a slow lane so that others with special privileges can have superior service." The letter was in response to another missive signed by many of Silicon Valley's most prominent companies.
The FCC's new draft would also seek comment on whether "paid prioritization" agreements should be banned outright and whether large broadband companies should be banned from offering deals to some content companies but not others. Wheeler wants to know whether broadband Internet should be considered a public utility, a move that require more stringent regulation, according to The Wall Street Journal. To date, broadband has not been classified as a utility and there is strong opposition from the industry to the idea.
Wheeler to cable industry: 'Open Internet rules will be tough and enforceable'
Toll spat continues as Netflix accuses Comcast of double dipping
Reported net neutrality changes roil consumer advocates, send Wheeler into defensive mode