updated 05:58 pm EDT, Mon May 12, 2014
Changes address public, corporate concerns that rules would end net neutrality
The head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Chairman Tom Wheeler, is said to be according to the revising his proposal on broadband rules, according to the Wall Street Journal. The uncirculated first version has come under heavy fire recently by a wide variety of parties, from the public, tech companies and government officials to the other FCC commissioners, all of whom have registered objections. Changes to the proposal will include language that would allow for FCC oversight on deals, in order to keep providers from separating traffic into two lanes of speed based on paid agreements.
The new draft doesn't change the intent of the language Wheeler is proposing, but allows for more oversight and discussion over the effect the proposal may have on net neutrality. An agency official said that the new draft will seek comment on banning "paid prioritization" arrangements. Other comments will be sought on the idea of considering broadband an public utility.
"The new draft clearly reflects the public input the commission has received," says an FCC official. "The draft is explicit that the goal is to find the best approach to ensure the Internet remains open, and prevent any practices that threaten it." Critics have argued that Wheeler's original proposal, which explicitly allowed "paid prioritization," does exactly what the agency now says it wants to avoid.
The FCC intends to "seek comment on two other net neutrality proposals offered by the Mozilla Foundation and Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu." Mozilla's petition urged the FCC to consider reclassifying remote delivery services like broadband as telecommunication services. Wu thinks that broadband should be treated as a utility. By addressing these sorts of proposals, Wheeler is hoping to demonstrate to critics that he is willing to discuss reclassification, which could end the talk of traffic discrimination altogether.
Changes in the draft are also aimed at protecting consumers and startup companies by including new language that would protect them if they require broadband for operation. An ombudsman position with "significant enforcement authority" has also been added in the drafting language, to give startups an advocate to provide help with any disputes.
Wheeler is expected to reveal the details of the new proposal as early as today. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is expected to go to vote during the FCC's Thursday session.