Dem FCC commissioner: ‘No perfect pathway’ on net neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will not end the debate on regulating Internet service providers by choosing which legal authority to use, one of the panel's commissioners said Wednesday.

Regulators will have to work to ensure that their principles are carried out, Mignon Clyburn said, no matter how the new rules are written.

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“It’s a fact that there will be no perfect pathway,” Clyburn, a Democrat, said at an American Enterprise Institute forum.

“If we want some of the questions and some of the barriers and some of the promises to be realized, it’s going take more than pronouncing which pathway to take,” she added. “It’s going to take more granular detail.”

Clyburn said that she saw herself as a “tortoise” who was “going through the details and really looking in a more clinical, in a more deliberative fashion, exactly what principles need to be part of whatever pathway we take.”

“That to me is just as important as declaring which title.”

The comments shed some light on the thinking of one of the FCC’s key voices as Chairman Tom Wheeler prepares new net neutrality rules.

Clyburn’s focus on specific details instead of the larger legal framework indicated she could be supportive of a “hybrid” regulatory model like the one Wheeler was reportedly considering earlier this month.

While President Obama on Monday urged the FCC to abandon that approach and instead write tough rules that reclassify the Internet so that it can be treated like a public utility, Wheeler is reportedly considering splitting from that recommendation. 

Wheeler’s plans will need to win the approval of Clyburn and fellow Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in order to be issued. The five-member commission’s two Republicans, Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly, are considered likely to vote against Wheeler’s rules no matter how they are crafted.