FCC chair responds to net neutrality backlash: ‘I could not agree with you more’

May 9, 2014

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler responded Friday to some of the most vocal critics of his proposal to allow Internet providers to charge content providers like Netflix for faster access to customers.

In a letter to a tech coalition that includes Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and nearly 150 other companies, Wheeler said he will regulate broadband companies more heavily if the situation called for it. Wheeler added that as an entrepreneur, he has also been "subject to being blocked from access to cable networks."

"It is an experience that made me especially wary of the power of closed networks to innovate on their own agenda to the detriment of small entrepreneurs," Wheeler wrote.

Wheeler also said his proposal is an attempt to adhere to the roadmap laid out by a federal court when it struck down the FCC's old net neutrality rules in January. The FCC's newest proposal, which will be outlined to the public  May 15, has drawn criticism from high-tech start-ups and consumer groups that fear that only the richest companies will be able to afford tolls exacted by Internet service providers. Two  FCC commissioners have also asked for Wheeler to delay a vote on the issue.

Alan Davidson, director of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute and a coalition organizer, said he was glad to see the response.

"The key question is what this means for the commission's open Internet proceeding and it's upcoming rule-making notice," Davidson said. "We hope it signals real progress towards stronger protections for consumers against discrimination on their internet connections."

Here's the letter in full:

 

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecom, broadband and digital politics. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.
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