FCC chair Tom Wheeler has reiterated that he's not giving up the fight for net neutrality after this week's defeat in court, though he hasn't laid out exactly what that means. In a speech to the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, Wheeler said that he would "accept the invitation" that Judge David Tatel had offered in his ruling, carrying on the principles of the Open Internet Order that was struck down after a suit by Verizon.
The court invited the commission to act, and I intend to accept that invitation. Using our authority, we will readdress the concepts in the Open Internet Order as the court invited to encourage growth and innovation and enforce against abuse.
We've noted with great interest the expressions from many internet service providers to the effect that they will continue to honor the Open Internet Order's concepts even though they may have been remanded to the commission. That's the right and responsible thing to do, and we take them up on their commitment. At the same time, we accept the court's invitation to revisit the structure of the rules that it vacated.
The great revolution in the internet is how it empowers individuals to both consume and create. It's the kind of opportunity that we're discussing here this morning. And to do so requires an accessible and open internet, and we will fight to preserve that capability.
Judge Tatel struck down the FCC's rules against blocking or discriminating against content, saying that the agency was trying to enforce a policy that couldn't apply to ISPs. But he agreed that the FCC did have some authority to regulate carriers under the rules it was using — Section 706 — even if that authority didn't go as far as it wanted. The framework that we think of as net neutrality, though, may require the politically risky move of actually reclassifying broadband internet as a telecommunications carrier.
Will Wheeler be pursuing this? According to a senior capital hill staffer, his office has indicated it will move forward with the authority granted by the court under Section 706 instead of immediately attempting reclassification. In a blog post on Wednesday, Wheeler promised to "employ any necessary means" to move the open internet framework forward: "That the jurisdiction exists is not debatable." Whether that jurisdiction can be established without a fight, though, is a much more open question.