FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has announced that the agency will vote on new proposed net neutrality rules next February 26. He made the announcement during a public interview at the ongoing CES event in Las Vegas.
Wheeler said the proposal will be circulated to the commissioners on February 5th, which means that they will have a three week window before the vote.
As far as the proposal is concerned, he didn’t provide details, but did hint that it will reclassify broadband as a Title II utility. He also mentioned that the agency might take a hybrid approach, applying only relevant Title II restrictions to broadband Internet.
Last November President Barack Obama publicly came out in support of net neutrality, asking the regulator to reclassify Internet service as a utility. At that time Wheeler didn’t officially say whether he would support the president’s suggestion, although there were reports suggesting that he’d likely move in a different direction.
He touched upon the issue during the interview, saying, “When the president came out … there was an effort made to say Wheeler and the president are pulling in opposite directions on this,” adding, “But that wasn’t exactly the reality because we’re both pulling in the same directions, which is no blocking, no throttling of applications, and transparency about how we get there.”
However, Wheeler was also quick to add that prioritization may be appropriate in some scenarios, for example, in case of an emergency health alert. “There are instances where priority makes a whole heck of a lot of sense,” he said.
Opponents of net neutrality argue that prioritization of bandwidth is necessary for future innovation on the Internet, and greater regulation will negatively affect the investment in next-generation Internet infrastructure, something which would in turn stifle growth across the entire economy.