FCC Chief Pressured To Release Net Neutrality Rules

The pressure cooker is bubbling underneath the feet of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, as Republicans are pushing for a voting delay, saying the public needs time to see and review the plan.

Of the five-member FCC, two Republicans who sit on the committee urged the agency to delay the vote. To make matters worse, Chairman Tom Wheeler is being called upon to make his proposal public and subject to a 30-day review before the proposal is completed.

Meanwhile, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) wants Mr. Wheeler to appear at a hearing on Capitol Hill before the vote even takes place, and is pressing him to make the proposal open to viewing to the public before the FCC decides whether to complete it.

Billed as the "civil rights movement of the Internet Age," the FCC's proposal has been part and parcel of a heated partisan battle since Mr. Wheeler made public the outlines to ban Internet service providers from blocking, slowing down or speeding up certain websites in exchange for payment.

On the opposite side of the table, Democrats have been hugely supportive of the proposed plan. Republicans, on the other hand, have only criticized both the concept and the process through which the plan was developed. There have also been complaints that Mr. Wheeler "reversed course" and changed the original proposal without making it public.

"With the future of the entire Internet at stake, it is imperative that the FCC get this right," Commissioners Ajit Pai and Mike O'Reilly said in a statement. "And to do that, we must live up to the highest standards of transparency. Transparency is particularly important here because the plan in front of us right now is so drastically different than the proposal the FCC adopted and put out for public comment in May."

The recasting of net neutrality rules has been in the works since the agency had its 2010 work tossed out by a federal court last year. Proponents of an open Internet want to ensure that Internet service providers (ISPs) give consumers access to all legal content and applications on an equal basis, without favoring or blocking some sources. The rules outlined would also prohibit ISPs from allowing content providers to pay subscriber fees to receive speedier delivery of their content, a process known as "paid prioritization."

Wheeler believes that by releasing the rules before the FCC votes runs contrary to how federal agencies work.

"If decades of precedent are to be changed, then there must be an opportunity for thoughtful review in the lead up to any change," he wrote.

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