FCC’s Wheeler Vows to Take Next Steps on Net Neutrality ‘Shortly’

FCC faces pressure from public interest groups to preserve open Internet

The pressure is mounting on the Federal Communications Commission to revisit how it will regulate net neutrality in the wake of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals decision that tossed the rules back in the regulator's lap.

On Thursday, Free Press and more than 80 other organizations, including ACLU, Common Cause, ColorofChange, Demand Progress, and even the Harry Potter Alliance, delivered a petition to the FCC at the conclusion of the agency's monthly meeting.

More than 1 million people signed the petition urging the FCC to "reassert its clear authority over our nation's communications infrastructure" and classify the transmission component of broadband Internet as a telecommunications service.

While the court struck down the non-discrimination and no-blocking rules, it also ruled the FCC had the authority to regulate the Internet. That decision leaves the FCC with a thorny legal choice about whether it regulates by classifying the Internet as a telecommunications service or as an information service.

In seeking to reassure the petitioners, Wheeler affirmed the commission's commitment to preserve and protect the open Internet. "We interpret the court decision as an invitation and we will accept that invitation," Wheeler said in a press conference following Thursday's meeting. "One of the great things about what the Internet does and why it needs to stay open, it enables people to organize and express themselves. A million people? That's boffo."

But as he has done all week, Wheeler talked around the edges about what the FCC might do, leaving the details to the imagination. "You will see some specifics coming out shortly," he said. "We are looking at all the tools in the toolbox and we will be forthcoming with our plan and rationale shortly."

In several public appearances since the court's decision two weeks ago, Wheeler said he favored regulating net neutrality on a case-by-case basis. But he also has not ruled out setting down some broad concepts, avoiding the kind of operational rules that landed the FCC in court.

"What we don't want to do is say that we're smarter than the net," Wheeler said earlier this week during a panel at the State of the Net Conference in Washington. "We can establish a foundation, then look at specific situations."