Wheeler predicts FCC 'will prevail' in court

Wheeler predicts FCC 'will prevail' in court
© Greg Nash

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler maintained confidence Friday that the agency's new Internet rules "will be upheld by the courts."

Wheeler has been arguing for months that the commission's net neutrality rules were written with litigation in mind, but his comments Friday are the first on the subject since the U.S. Telecom Association filed the opening lawsuit against them. 

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The commission addressed the major hangup that led to an appeals court striking down previous rules, Wheeler said, by reclassifying broadband under authority governing traditional telephones. 

"We have addressed that issue, which is the underlying issue in all of the debates we've had so far. That gives me great confidence going forward that we will prevail," he said in prepared remarks at Ohio State University. 

Critics have asserted the new net neutrality regulations are ripe for a court challenge, pointing to the substance and process in which they were passed. The U.S. Telecom Association and a Texas-based provider both filed lawsuits this week. 

But Wheeler said when the FCC prevails, the winners will be "consumers and innovators and our economy."

"We will finally have strong, enforceable rules that assure that the Internet remains open now, and into the future," he said. "That is, I am confident, the right choice."

During his speech he compared the rules to an insurance policy. Wheeler ticked through a number of net neutrality violations in the past, from Comcast in 2008 to interconnection disputes between providers and Netflix that are being reviewed. 

Nonetheless, Internet service providers have argued that any violation of net neutrality principles — like blocking, throttling or paid prioritization — is a low probability event. 

"Whether or not they are low probability — and we were not convinced that they would be — if they occur, they are likely to be highly consequential," he said. "As a result, the majority thought it was prudent to secure some insurance."