U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis) is launching an investigation trying to determine whether the White House “pressured” the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman to reclassify broadband Internet as a public utility.
Johnson said most people agree with having equal access to the Internet, “allowing for the expansion of innovation and greater creativity” online. But, he said, Chairman Tom Wheeler’s stance is not the way to go. “The problem is, the way it’s described is not necessarily what will actually happen should we decide to regulate the Internet under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.”
Wheeler is pushing the “strongest open Internet protections ever proposed” by the federal agency. So said Barry Orton, professor of telecommunications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Net neutrality requires Internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally. Big business and small entrepreneurs would have the same unrestricted, high-speed access to high-speed bandwidth. Discussions have been going on for more than a decade.
Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter on Monday to the FCC requesting information on all communications on this issue. He said this decision might just be “another executive action dictated out of the White House,” saying, “Chairman Wheeler, from what I can tell, was opposed to regulating the Internet under Title II until President Obama basically urged him to do so.”
Johnson said Wheeler’s new position on net neutrality is wrong, and the process raises serious questions about the president’s inappropriate influence over what is supposed to be an independent agency.
U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis) has a different view than Johnson. Baldwin doesn’t want providers to create an uneven playing field in what’s essentially an online marketplace for services and ideas.
Both sides of the argument believe there will be a lot of litigation before this is resolved. Orton said it will be “an epic battle,” saying net neutrality is a “full employment act for telecommunications lawyers in Washington.”
The FCC has scheduled a vote on the 26th.