Perhaps the most ironic aspect of net neutrality is that no one is neutral about it. The topic, about which President Barack Obama finally spoke last week, is about to enter into its next round of brouhaha.
This comes with the news that Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler is leaning toward using FCC authority to regulate Internet providers like phone companies.
Proponents of this decision, which include consumer advocacy groups and Internet-based companies like Google and Netflix, are pleased with the idea since there is reason to believe that it would withstand a legal challenge, and that it limits the ability of Internet service providers to offer paid prioritization of Internet traffic.
Other interested parties, such as Republicans, Wall Street and ISPs, are not so happy, especially since the move would invoke the dreaded words "government" and "regulation" in the same sentence. They claim Wheeler's possible decision would be a violation of free market principles.
Supporters of Wheeler's idea point to a federal appeals court ruling in January of this year that determined, among other things, that the 2010 open Internet rules that it had just struck down were at fault for treating broadband providers differently than phone companies. Hence, Wheeler's decision to treat all of them the same.
Wheeler is being spurred to action in part by a letter he received from Democratic senators in mid-July. The letter included advice to "reclassify broadband to reflect the vital role the Internet plays in carrying our most important information."
The FCC is about to engage in six roundtable discussions in Washington between Sept. 16 and Oct. 7 to further discuss the matter. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-VT, suggested that Wheeler expand the discussions to include roundtables outside of the capital, both near and far, to get a much broader cross-section of opinion.
This has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for the vacillating Wheeler and the FCC. Wheeler first proposed open Internet rules that were more net neutrality-friendly. These guidelines were smacked down by a federal appeals court in January. Wheeler's next plan allowed for some Internet fast lanes, as long as these special arrangements were "commercially responsible."
When that didn't fly, with extreme prejudice, among net neutrality advocates and the general public, the FCC established a public comments section on its website for comments pro or con about Wheeler's plan. The site was deluged and overrun with comments decrying Wheeler's plan to allow some paid prioritization of traffic.
As reported by Tech Times, President Obama announced that he is an advocate of an open Internet and opposed to Internet fast lanes, "so that the next Google or the next Facebook can succeed."