FCC chief hopes to move 'quickly' on net neutrality

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on Thursday said he hopes to move "quickly" on new neutrality rules but declined to offer a specific timetable.

"I think I said that I want to do it quickly, I want to do it right, and I want to do it sustainably," he told reporters after the commission’s open meeting. 

When asked again if it would come in February or March of next year, he said only, "Quickly, right, sustainable."

Wheeler had previously planned to have new net neutrality rules ready before the end of the year, but that has been pushed back until early next year, following President Obama's call for the strongest rules possible.

The chairman is facing pressure from all sides over rules to ensure that Internet traffic is treated equally. 

Obama and other advocates believe reclassifying broadband as a public utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act is the only way to ensure service providers do not block or slow access to certain sites, or cut deals to provide faster service. 

The commission released proposed rules earlier this year that did not include reclassification. However, Wheeler has floated a number of other proposals since then, including hybrid plans. 

Broadband providers and many Republicans have come out strongly against reclassification, which they say would stifle innovation to harm investment. 

But Wheeler said a Verizon executive's assertion this week that strong net neutrality rules would not have an effect on the company's investments is indication that they might not be as disruptive as some predict.

"When Verizon makes that kind of a statement, I think it is logical, I think it is reflective in what various Wall Street analysts have said in terms of Title II being less of a bugaboo if it is done correctly," he said.

Some Republicans have warned that reclassification would lead to increased fees on consumers, including subjecting broadband customers to Universal Service fund fees — traditionally reserved for phone bills.

"That is one issue that is out there being looked at," Wheeler said. "Let me be real clear, I want to make sure that as I said last time that we were together, that we get ... the open Internet item done fast, we get it done right and we get it done permanently."