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FCC Chairman Accepts ‘Invitation’ to ‘Interpret’ Verizon Court Decision

29 Jan, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

Like millions of Americans, Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and his wife watch Netflix and at times get frustrated when bandwidth restrictions lead to pixilation and buffering of their video streams, among other issues.

Speaking Jan. 28 at the State of the Net Conference in Washington, D.C., Wheeler implied that the Jan. 14 U.S. District Court of Appeals decision to reject the bulk of the FCC’s Open Internet Order represented a summons to expand the debate.

“I interpret what the court did as an invitation to us, and that I intend to accept that invitation,” Wheeler said.

He believes the court decision involved more than just an intrusion of net neutrality, and should also focus on the interconnection consumers have with their ISPs and third-party video providers.

Specifically, the chairman raised an issue Netflix CEO Reed Hastings blogged about in 2012 when he questioned why streaming Netflix incurred higher data usage rates than his ISP’s (Comcast) streaming service.

“The challenge we’re going through right now is you want to make sure that there is innovation; you want to make sure there is experimentation, you want to make sure you are allowing a network to evolve and operate, and [also] not have the kind of command and control structure that was possible in the old days,” Wheeler said.

BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield, who posted a video clip of Wheeler’s comments, said it would be wrong for the government to impose stricter guidelines on broadband providers, including lumping them under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act that mandates telecommunications carriers provide services without "unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services.”

“We hope the FCC exercises restraint,” Greenfield wrote in a Jan. 28 blog. “We believe ISPs understand the risks of abusive behavior, as well as the [revenue] benefits from encouraging third-party bandwidth heavy apps, like Netflix.  It is not in the ISP’s interest to end up as Title II services.”

Greenfield is a moderator on Netflix’s quarterly fiscal video interviews.



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