FCC chairman: 'More time' needed for net neutrality proposals

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on Monday welcomed President Obama's call for stronger broadband Internet regulation, noting the independent agency will consider the president's comments along with thousands of others on the topic.

Wheeler on Monday said the agency will need "more time" to examine the various legal implications of rules governing the Internet, though he did not specify a time frame. 

"As an independent regulatory agency we will incorporate the President’s submission into the record of the Open Internet proceeding," Wheeler said in a statement. "We welcome comment on it and how it proposes to use Title II of the Communications Act."

Obama is urging the commission to treat broadband Internet as a public utility, a move that would ban companies from cutting deals for faster service by regulating it in ways similar to traditional phone companies. 

"The FCC is an independent agency, and ultimately this decision is theirs alone," Obama noted, before outlining his preference. 

"We both oppose Internet fast lanes," Wheeler said. "The Internet must not advantage some to the detriment of others. We cannot allow broadband networks to cut special deals to prioritize Internet traffic and harm consumers, competition and innovation." 

Wheeler is reportedly debating an alternate “hybrid” plan that would use the Title II authority to regulate transactions between Internet service providers and websites. Separate regulations would handle the relationship between broadband providers and customers.

Wheeler's reported new proposal, as well as one unveiled earlier this year, could leave open the possibility of "fast lane" deals. 

Wheeler has previously suggested his new proposal would be unveiled by the end of the year. The various legal options, Wheeler said Monday, ensure that "there is more work to do."

"The reclassification and hybrid approaches before us raise substantive legal questions," he added. "We found we would need more time to examine these to ensure that whatever approach is taken, it can withstand any legal challenges it may face."

A spokesman for Wheeler confirmed the new net neutrality order would not be taken up in the committee's open meeting in December, meaning the "rules would not be finalized until 2015."

This story was updated at 12:42 p.m.