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

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FCC chairman Tom Wheeler (Flickr/ALA Washington Office)

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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2020 Election

America’s crimes against humanity aren’t on the ballot this year — but they should be

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The 2020 presidential election is a life-and-death decision for thousands of people vulnerable to COVID-19, for a globe under the assault from the climate crisis, and for the future of American democracy. And yet for all the urgency, the political campaign still suffers under the weight and stench of bullshit.

This article first appeared in Salon.

Philosopher Harry Frankfurt warns in his bestselling pamphlet "On Bullshit" that "bullshit" is more injurious than the blatant lie. One reason among many is that bullshit blurs the line between reality and fiction, offering a manipulative incorporation of truth to strengthen its own capacity to persuade. Absolute falsity, in contrast, is obvious to anyone with minimal awareness of the facts. When the Trump administration recently declared that one of its grand achievements was "ending the pandemic," most people laughed in disbelief. This is a lie fit for consumption only from inhabitants of a collective similar to the Rev. Jim Jones' notorious People's Temple settlement in Guyana.

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2020 Election

Conservatives are hopping mad that their clumsy Hunter Biden smear is a flop

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

In 2016, Steve Bannon did an amazing job rolling out the Clinton Foundation nontroversy. He gave The New York Times and CNN early access to Peter Schweizer's book, Clinton Cash, and the outlets gave it mainstream credibility. Later, when the Uranium One story was thoroughly debunked, it didn't matter. The foundation remained under a pall of fuzzy suspicions.

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GOP insiders give Pence little chance of ever being president after four years spent defending Trump: report

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On Saturday, writing for The Washington Post, Ben Terris reported that many Republican consultants and insiders believe that Vice President Mike Pence's presidential ambitions are doomed, for several reasons.

"If you list the top 10 most likely people to have a strong shot at the nomination, maybe Mike Pence makes number nine or 10," said former Marco Rubio presidential campaign manager Terry Sullivan in the piece. "Maybe." Former Jeb Bush campaign spokesman Tim Miller agreed, saying, "I could maybe see him becoming the nominee, but president? I just don’t see it."

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