A month after US courts rejected a bank-shot effort to force internet service providers to treat their traffic equally, Federal Communications Commission chair Tom Wheeler announced today a new plan to enforce net neutrality.
The agency plans to use new authorities recognized by the court when it struck down their previous effort after a challenge from telecom Verizon. Today’s statement represents a new step toward open internet rules, while falling short of reclassifying broadband providers as “common carriers” that should be regulated like utilities providing public goods, which is, of course, the last thing those firms and their shareholders want—and the main demand of many open internet advocates.
The new effort to deploy so-called “Section 706″ authority is not without risk. Berin Szoka, president of the libertarian non-profit TechFreedom, says that the FCC can use its authority so effectively under the statute that reclassifying broadband providers is unnecessary—and he worries the statute could expand to regulate a much wider variety of internet companies.