After intense criticism over his proposed net neutrality rules, Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is revising his stance, according to reports from two top U.S. newspapers.
The Chairman still wants to introduce rules that would allow Internet Service Providers to charge content companies such as Amazon and Netflix for faster delivery of their traffic to subscribers’ homes. But to appease his critics, Wheeler’s revised proposal would more explicitly disallow so-called ‘slow lane’ Internet traffic.
The new proposal would “include language that would make clear that the FCC will scrutinize the deals to make sure that the broadband providers don’t unfairly put nonpaying companies’ content at a disadvantage,” an unnamed agency official told The Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post reported the same news, also citing anonymous sources.
In other words, ISPs could still charge for so-called paid prioritization, but the carrier’s wouldn’t be allowed to penalize non-paying companies with slower delivery.
Wheeler’s revised proposal would also create a new ombudsman that could ensure paid prioritization wasn’t being used by ISPs to smother Internet start-ups. One of the many concerns of net neutrality advocates is that paid prioritization would harm innovation from new online services.
Wheeler is expected to start circulating his new draft proposal internally at the FCC as early as Monday, the Journal reports. The new proposed net neutrality rules are slated to become public on Thursday.
The new proposed draft would also ask for public comment on whether paid prioritization should be banned altogether and whether the FCC should reclassify ISPs as common carriers.
While the reported new rules are unlikely to win over net neutrality advocates, the proposal could spark a more vigorous fight to classify ISPs as common carriers, similar to phone companies.
Many net neutrality advocates have been pushing for the FCC to classify ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Federal Communications Act all along. If ISPs were considered common carriers the companies wouldn’t be allowed to block or give preferential treatment to one piece of content over another.
The Journal says the FCC is also looking to get comment over two alternative proposals by the Mozilla Foundation and Columbia Law Professor and Internet access critic Tim Wu.