There is a wide feeling on the eighth floor that this is a debacle and I think people would like to see a change of course. We may not agree on the course, but we agree the road we’re on is to disaster.
The debacle in question is the proposal by FCC chair Tom Wheeler that would gut net neutrality by allowing big companies to pay ISPs for faster internet service. Wheeler’s proposal has provoked a massive backlash, and he’s now promising revisions:
The new language by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to be circulated as early as Monday is an attempt to address criticism of his proposal….In the new draft, Mr. Wheeler is sticking to the same basic approach but will include language that would make clear that the FCC will scrutinize the deals to make sure that the broadband providers don’t unfairly put nonpaying companies’ content at a disadvantage, according to an agency official.
….[An agency] official said the draft would also seek comment on whether such agreements, called “paid prioritization,” should be banned outright, and look to prohibit the big broadband companies, such as Comcast Corp. and AT&T Inc., from doing deals with some content companies on terms that they aren’t offering to others.
Mr. Wheeler’s language will also invite comments on whether broadband Internet service should be considered a public utility, which would subject it to greater regulation. The FCC has so far not reclassified broadband as a utility, and providers have fiercely opposed such a move, saying it would cause innovation and investment to collapse.
Color me unimpressed. A promise that the FCC will “scrutinize” deals is basically worthless, and inviting comments on reclassifying broadband internet service will lead nowhere if Wheeler himself doesn’t support it—which he doesn’t. This looks mostly like smoke and mirrors to me.