FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s leadership and negotiation skills are being tested ahead of a Thursday meeting when the agency is scheduled to consider his new net neutrality rules. He’s having trouble rallying fellow Democrats Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel to support a proposal that would limit “commercially unreasonable” practices by Internet providers — but would still enable them to create a so-called fast lane for companies willing to pay for speedy transmissions. Wheeler’s hands were somewhat tied in January when the D.C. Court of Appeals remanded earlier FCC net neutrality rules saying that they went too far as long as the agency classified the Web as a lightly regulated information service. That’s why consumer and activist groups want the FCC to reclassify the Web as a common carrier service, which the agency would have a clear right to regulate.
“The open Internet’s impact on the creative community cannot be overstated,” says a letter to the FCC today signed by artists and musicians including Mark Ruffalo, Eddie Vedder, Roger Waters, Michael Stipe, Eric McKeown, Joe Perry, Tom Morello, Fred Armisen. “The Internet has enabled artists to connect directly with each other and with audiences….And it has allowed people — not corporations — to seek out the film, music and art that moves them.”
Internet providers are nervous: Today 28 execs — including Comcast’s Brian Roberts, Charter’s Tom Rutledge, Time Warner Cable’s Rob Marcus, Verizon’s Lowell McAdam, and AT&T’s Randall Stephenson — also sent a letter to the FCC. They warned that reclassification “would impose great costs, allowing unprecedented government micromanagement of all aspects of the Internet economy.” It would scare off investors, they say, leaving consumers with “less choice, and a less adaptive and responsive Internet. An era of differentiation, innovation, and experimentation would be replaced with a series of ‘Government may I?’ requests from American entrepreneurs.”