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FCC Chief Unveils Net Neutrality Plan

Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler announced plans for wide-ranging net neutrality regulations in an op-ed piece published on Wired.com today. The new rules would ban paid prioritization on the Internet and provide incentives for broadband operators to construct competitive networks.

“These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services,” Wheeler wrote. “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.”

Wheeler said his proposals would provide the strongest open Internet protections ever suggested by the FCC. They include no rate regulation, no tariffs, and no last-mile unbundling. “Over the last 21 years, the wireless industry has invested almost $300 billion under similar rules,” he added.

Republicans in Congress were quick to condemn the FCC chief’s plans. “Chairman Wheeler’s proposal to regulate the Internet as a public utility is not about net neutrality—it is a power grab for the federal government by the chairman of a supposedly independent agency who finally succumbed to the bully tactics of political activists and the president himself,” responded Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune in a statement.

Thune added that regulating the Web using “ill-suited and antiquated authorities that were designed for the monopoly phone era will ultimately make the Internet more rigid and less innovative.”

But Democratic leaders rallied behind Wheeler. “We stand ready and willing to work with our Republican colleagues, but unfortunately, the [Republican] bill as currently drafted would dramatically undermine the FCC’s vital role in protecting consumers and small businesses online by limiting its enforcement and rule-making authorities,” said a statement released jointly by Senators Patrick Leahy, Ron Wyden, Al Franken, and Cory Booker.

Also falling in line with Wheeler was the Internet Association, which represents the interests of companies including Amazon, AOL, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and Salesforce.com. “Internet companies are pleased to hear that Chairman Wheeler intends to enact…bright-line rules that ban paid prioritization, blocking, and discrimination online,” said a statement from the association. “There is only one Internet, and users expect that they be able to access an uncensored Internet regardless of how they connect.”

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