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Wheeler, Pai Express Conflicting Opinions over Net Neutrality Decision

Tue, 01/14/2014 - 1:18pm
Andrew Berg

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler (Source: AP)A rift appeared to emerge at the FCC Tuesday over a D.C. Appeals Court decision to strike down Net Neutrality rules. 

Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Ajit Pai both released statements Tuesday that appeared at odds on how the Commission should respond to the ruling. 

Wheeler referenced the part of the court's ruling which says the FCC is charged with enabling the development and deployment of broadband. Wheeler sees the commission's protection of the Internet as part of that responsibilty. 

"I am committed to maintaining our networks as engines for economic growth, test beds for innovative services and products, and channels for all forms of speech protected by the First Amendment," Wheeler wrote. "We will consider all available options, including those for appeal, to ensure that these networks on which the Internet depends continue to provide a free and open platform for innovation and expression, and operate in the interest of all Americans.”

Pai, on the other hand, said the FCC needs to accept the ruling and move on. 

“For the second time in four years, the D.C. Circuit has ruled that the FCC exceeded its authority in attempting to regulate the Internet," Pai wrote. "It is time for the Commission to take no for an answer." 

Pai put the ball in Congress' court. 

"Unless Congress acts, we should stay our hand and refrain from any further attempt to micromanage how broadband providers run their networks," Pai wrote. "We should focus on removing regulatory barriers to broadband deployment, not imposing unnecessary rules that chill infrastructure investment.”

At issue for the courts was how the FCC categorized Internet Service Providers. Under previous chairman Julius Genachowski, the commission classified broadband providers in such a way that they were exempted from treatment as common carriers. As such, the Communications Act prohibits the FCC from regulating them as such.

The Open Internet rules didn't apply to wireless networks, but CTIA chimed in on today's decision, saying it was still reviewing the text of the opinion.  

The Wireless Association President and CEO Steve Largent, urged caution going forward, especially with regards to mobile broadband. 

"Policymakers should exercise caution before adding any additional regulation to this area, particularly given the fundamental technical and operational challenges facing mobile broadband providers and the robust competition to attract and retain customers.”

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