FCC chairman: Internet rules will define congressional debate

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler says he looks forward to working with Congress on net neutrality. 

Wheeler said he discussed his proposed Internet regulation with the relevant leaders of Congress this week. And his proposal, detailed Wednesday, will define the debate going forward, he added. 

“The Congress makes our rules,” Wheeler said in an interview with PBS that aired Wednesday night. “I look forward to working with the Congress on these issues. I have talked to all the leadership of Congress in telecommunications in the last 24 hours and I said, 'You know, these rules — by us putting out … these rules, it creates some certainty in terms of just what the debate is about, rather than these ethereal kinds of concepts that have been kicking around.' ”

The chairman did not detail his work with Congress. The FCC is scheduled to vote on the regulations Feb. 26. 

The rules, a year in the making, would reclassify broadband Internet like a utility, similar to traditional telephones. The stricter authority is meant to prevent Internet service providers from blocking or slowing any Internet traffic, while also preventing companies from negotiating deals for faster service. 

Republicans and service providers have been strongly against reclassification. Republicans have drafted legislation in an attempt to find an alternate way to enforce the rules. While the proposal would enact many of the net neutrality principles supported by advocates, Democrats have balked at the proposal because it would roll back some FCC authority. 

Wheeler expressed little concern that a future commission would undo the regulations, noting similar rules governing wireless voice calling have been around for two decades. 

“I think what is important is to establish the precedent, to vanquish some of the imaginary horribles that everybody always throws out could possibly happen, to build a track records and to let it speak for itself,” Wheeler said.