The future of net neutrality looks pretty fucking bleak right now. Next week, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will step down after leading the commission for the last three years. During his time as chairman, Wheeler issued the 2015 Open Internet Order, a set of rules that protests net neutrality by prohibiting ISPs from blocking or throttling web traffic. All indications show the new FCC will work to undo the current commissions work “as soon as possible.”
Today, Wheeler spoke at the Aspen Institute in his final address as FCC chairman. During the address, the chairman used a large portion of his time to make a final plea to keep net neutrality rules in place.
“For the past three years, we’ve moved through a key stage in the IP revolution,” Wheeler said. “While the nature of how information is delivered has changed from analog to digital, the basic responsibilities of network owners to network users has not changed.”
Chairman Wheeler spent only a couple of minutes talking about some of the decisions and priorities of his commission. He then quickly shifted to the growing tensions over existing net neutrality rules, and why it would be a huge blow to consumers if they’re substantially revoked.
“The question going forward is whether the ISPs and policymakers will recognize that obeying speed limits helps everyone,” Wheeler said. “The overall goal of the new policies was to promote a thriving broadband ecosystem, and that’s exactly what’s happening.”
In a rather fiery moment, Wheeler cited AT&T’s zero-rating DirecTV Now deal that essentially skirts net neutrality rules. He called back to the “porting debates” that hindered video providers prior to the ruling. He did not specially mention the Netflix and Verizon deal by name.
“What some describe as free market economics cannot mean simply freeing incumbents of their responsibilities,” he later added. “A hands-off approach to network oversight is more than a shift in direction, it is a decision to remove rights and move backward.”