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FCC chief Wheeler signals support of Obama’s stance favoring net neutrality

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The top U.S. communications regulator on Wednesday endorsed the regulatory standard applied to telephone companies in remarks seen as the strongest indication yet that he planned to side with President Barack Obama on strict “net neutrality” rules.

Comments by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas appeared to show he leaned toward regulating Internet service providers (ISPs) more strictly under Title II of the U.S. communications law, as Obama has suggested.

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The FCC has been working for nearly a year on new rules governing how ISPs manage Web traffic on their networks, and Wheeler said he will share his latest proposal with fellow commissioners on Feb. 5 and hold the vote on final regulations on Feb. 26.

At stake is whether and how ISPs should be banned from blocking or slowing down websites and applications and from charging content companies for “prioritized” downloads.

“We’re going to propose rules that say that no blocking (is allowed), no throttling, no paid prioritization,” Wheeler said.

He said companies’ behavior should be measured against a yardstick of whether it is “just and reasonable,” referring to a standard often applied to public utility companies to make sure they do not hurt consumers or competition.

The FCC last year received some 4 million comments after Wheeler’s original proposal left the door open to “commercially reasonable” discrimination.

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Obama in November gave net neutrality advocates a boost, calling for strictest rules possible and suggesting the FCC reclassify ISPs as more heavily regulated “telecommunications services,” instead of the current “information services.”

Net neutrality advocates welcomed Wheeler’s new plan. “All afternoon in fact I’ve received emails and calls from entrepreneurs across the country encouraged by the chairman’s remarks, willing to work with him,” said Marvin Ammori, a lawyer who represents technology companies.

ISPs say they do not object to parts of Obama’s plan but staunchly oppose reclassification, which they say will present a regulatory burden and impede investments and innovation. They are expected to mount a court challenge, and Republicans are expected to counter new rules with legislation.

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“The implications of the just and reasonable standard will be years of litigation just as we’ve seen since 1934, when those words were written by Congress for the Ma Bell monopoly,” said former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, a Republican.

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh and Malathi Nayak; Editing by Andre Grenon and Cynthia Osterman)

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Trump has committed 6 impeachable offenses: Harvard Law’s Laurence Tribe says ‘the evidence is all there’

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Constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe broke down the six impeachable offenses President Donald Trump has committed during a Thursday appearance on MSNBC's "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell.

Tribe has argued 36 cases before the United States Supreme Court and taught at Harvard Law for 50 years. He co-authored the 2018 book To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment with Joshua Matz.

"Everyone was in the loop, it was no secret. That was the testimony from Ambassador Gordon Sondland yesterday as he implicated the president, Secretary of State, White House chief of staff, and former National Security Advisor John Bolton and other administration officials in the plot to bribe the president of Ukraine to publicly launch an investigation into Joe Biden in exchange for U.S. military aid to Ukraine that was authorized by Congress and that the president was withholding," O'Donnell reported.

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Rachel Maddow breaks down how public opinion is catching up with the facts of Trump’s impeachment

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MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow on Thursday broke down how the details from the televised impeachment hearings are being reported in local newspapers.

The host read the headlines from multiple newspapers following the damning testimony by Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

The Los Angels Times headlined, "Sonland implicates president." "Envoy says Trump directed effort," was The Wall Street Journal headline.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch headlined, "'Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret': Defiant Sondland says he followed Trump's orders."

"Trump directed pressure on Ukraine, ambassador says," headlined The Kansas City Star.

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Shep Smith blasts autocrats in first public remarks since leaving Fox News — and donates $500,000 to protect journalists

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On Thursday, for the first time since exiting Fox News, reporter Shepard Smith gave public comments at the International Press Freedom Awards — and used the occasion to blast autocratic leaders who use their power to suppress journalism.

"Intimidation and vilification of the press is now a global phenomenon. We don’t have to look far for evidence of that,” said Smith. "Our belief a decade ago that the online revolution would liberate us now seems a bit premature, doesn’t it? Autocrats have learned how to use those same online tools to shore up their power. They flood the world of information with garbage and lies, masquerading as news. There’s a phrase for that."

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