It's a good day for the internet: Wired just published an op-ed by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler detailing his new proposal for strict net neutrality rules, rules that largely resemble the terrific plan President Obama outlined a few months ago. Great! But let's be real: An opinion piece is not a new policy.
Wheeler's proposal is a great step forward for the free and open internet internet. But there are many more steps to go before we get out the champagne and confetti. Here are the ones we know.
The FCC still needs to approve the rules
This part should be fairly straightforward. Wheeler's statement of commitment to strict rules that defend net neutrality is a powerful one, but we've yet to see the actual wording of his proposal. Once that wording's out, the FCC commissioners will have to review it, and then, hopefully, votes to approve it at the end of this month. Based on the tenor of the last FCC meeting about net neutrality rules, it sounds like some of the commissioners will support this new plan. But let's not forget that the agency as a whole did pass some pretty shitty rules less than a year ago.
All that said, Chairman Wheeler is taking a much more aggressive stance this time around. It sounds like he's done away with many of the bad things in the rules passed last May. From his Wired piece:
Using this authority, I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. I propose to fully apply—for the first time ever—those bright-line rules to mobile broadband. My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone's permission.
Sounds good, chief! Now please convince your commissioners to approve it.
Big telecom will challenge the rules in court
We already know that AT&T and Verizon will challenge these rules in court. AT&T exec Hank Hultquist said as much in a policy blog post this week:
As I said, I have no illusions that any of this will change what happens on February 26th. But when the FCC has to defend reclassification before an appellate court, it will have to grapple with these and other arguments. Those who oppose efforts at compromise because they assume Title II rests on bullet proof legal theories are only deceiving themselves.
That's AT&T essentially saying, "get ready to get sued over this" in a very public forum. Sources told VentureBeat that "Verizon will immediately sue" as well. They're surely not the only ones preparing lawsuits, either. There are a lot of companies that think they'll lose money if the government takes a more aggressive approach to regulating the internet. (They're probably wrong.) We also know that Comcast is content spreading misinformation about the issue, so maybe they'll sue, too.