The Wall Street Journal reports that the head of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler, is revising the commission's proposal to regulate broadband internet in response to enormous public outcry. The WSJ says the altered report will offer "assurances that the agency won't allow companies to segregate web traffic into fast and slow lanes," but may not appease the huge number of people who feel the FCC's plans will allow internet service providers to dictate consumer web usage.
FCC officials told The Wall Street Journal that the revised proposal would aim to stop large internet providers such as Comcast from brokering deals with content companies on special terms, and would seek comment on whether "paid prioritization" — when broadband providers slow access to nonpaying companies' sites and services — should be banned. Also reportedly added to the draft proposal is new language designed to protect companies that require internet access, and a new ombudsman who will advocate on behalf of startups in disputes, with "significant enforcement authority."
Tom Wheeler has come under fire for his proposed open internet rules
The FCC officials told the publication that Wheeler has redrafted his rules in an attempt to address the backlash to his initial proposal. That draft proposal, which offered an internet "fast lane" for bloated internet providers, was lambasted by some of the United States' biggest investors, technology companies, senators, and even Wheeler's own colleagues at the FCC. Wheeler himself has responded to public opposition, first in a blog post on the FCC's own site, in which he claimed that reports stating the FCC was "gutting" the open internet rule were false, and later in a letter published by The Washington Post.
The new proposal may be similar to the old one
An unnamed FCC source said that "the draft is explicit that the goal is to find the best approach to ensure the internet remains open and prevent any practices that threaten it," but it's still unclear how effectively the new proposal responds to criticisms of the previous draft. The Wall Street Journal says it will include "language that would make clear that the FCC will scrutinize the deals," but also that Wheeler is not deviating significantly from his previous proposal, sticking instead to "the same basic approach" as before.
The fact Wheeler is willing to change his mind in the face of overwhelming public comment is good for supporters of net neutrality, but even inside the FCC, opinion is reportedly split on the approach to take. One FCC official reportedly described the situation as "a debacle," saying "we may not agree on the course, but we agree the road we're on is to disaster." Certainly, if the proposal isn't altered sufficiently ahead of its official review this coming Thursday, the open internet as we know it could be destroyed.