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FCC set to make Net Neutrality vote tomorrow

February 25th, 2015

fcc-logoFCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan will go before the FCC board on Thursday for a vote on the “net neutrality” measures that have been proposed this month. Wheeler’s plan has been praised as relatively nonpartisan, and it has the support of the Obama administration, in the FCC’s attempt to “reclassify” broadband internet as a Class II utility under the Communications Act, bringing some measures of utility-like oversight by the federal government for broadband networks.

ExitEvent reports, the move isn’t as massive as it might sound, but it could leave the door open for such:

The majority of web traffic will largely remain unaffected (though the door is now open for that to begin to change), as most web data in terms of mileage is handled by third party content delivery networks or CDNs (Level 3, Cogent and Akamai, to name a few). When users send a Gmail or upload a YouTube video, most of those packets of information will still be optimized, prioritized and repackaged by companies like these, outside the gaze of the FCC.

But, always, at the end points of those emails and video uploads are the big boys like Comcast or Verizon in what is referred to in the industry as the “last mile”—the actual copper and glass tediously buried throughout thousands of neighborhoods across the U.S.—and that’s what Mr. Wheeler, and President Obama, would like the FCC to being to keep their eye on. This is the “reclassification” debate that has dominated much of the policy discussion this past year.

One ripple in the fallout could be Republican opposition in Congress, regardless of the FCC vote. And that’s not to mention potential FCC changes with the next presidential administration and FCC chair. Fred Upton (R-Mich), and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), released the following statement in conjunction with the House Energy and Commerce Committee:

We are deeply disappointed in Chairman Wheeler’s decision. As Chairman Wheeler pushes forward with plans to regulate the Internet, he still refuses to directly answer growing concerns about how the rules were developed, how they are structured, and how they will stand up to judicial scrutiny. After hearing from over four million Americans on such an important topic to our economic and cultural future, it’s striking that when Congress seeks transparency, Chairman Wheeler opts against it. The last time a rule of this magnitude was voted on by the FCC, then-Senator Obama was motivated to call for transparency at the commission. We continue that call today.

Reports as late as Tuesday suggest that changes in the proposed rules are still possible, with just hours left on the clock before the commission votes. So long as the chairman continues to insist on secrecy, we will continue calling for more transparency and accountability at the commission. Chairman Wheeler and the FCC are not above Congress. This fight continues as the future of the Internet is at stake.

How the vote pans out won’t be the final say, but it will say a lot about where this is heading.

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