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FCC Considering Revising Internet Policy

12 May, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

In an apparent reversal, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler reportedly is considering imposing greater oversight on the nation’s Internet service providers (ISPs), including new interconnection deals that afford smoother streaming for third-party video services.

Wheeler and the FCC will hold an “Open Commission” meeting May 15 where it will vote on adopting new Internet regulations. The meeting came about after a court earlier this year struck down provisions of the 2010 Net Neutrality guidelines.

The chairman, who recently advocated letting ISPs charge services fees (within commercial reason) for improved streaming speeds, ran into opposition within his own FCC commission after more than 100,000 opponents to the fees, including consumers, companies, entrepreneurs, investors, schools, educators, and healthcare providers, voiced their disapproval to the agency via emails, letters and phone calls.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, in a May 7 blog post, broke protocol by acknowledging the outpouring of concern from the public.

“While it is my normal practice not to comment in advance on items which are on circulation out of my deep respect for the integrity of our regulatory and administrative process, given the high level of attention and the outpouring of expression on the notice of proposed rulemaking on Open Internet, I felt it was important to highlight my previously stated views,” Clyburn wrote.

Clyburn is on record being opposed to the practice of allowing ISPs to charge services such as Netflix incremental fees that enable their subscribers to receive smoother (faster) video streams. Netflix, which recently signed such deals with Comcast and Verizon, has stated the fees amount to an extra tax.

“Netflix is not interested in a fast lane,” spokesperson Joris Evers told Bloomberg. “When it comes to the FCC’s vote [May 15], we’d prefer no rules at all rather than one that legalizes discrimination.”

Regardless, ISPs such as Verizon, Comcast and AT&T say the fees ensure greater infrastructure investment in broadband distribution channels — the backbone to streaming video.

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