FCC Democrat Mignon Clyburn Wants Some Net Neutrality Restrictions Rolled Back

Mignon Clyburn poses in an office. | John Shinkle/POLITICO
Mignon Clyburn poses in an office. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

A Democrat on the Federal Communications Commission wants to narrow the scope of new net neutrality rules that are set for a vote on Thursday, The Hill has learned.

Mignon Clyburn, one of three Democrats on the FCC, has asked Chairman Tom Wheeler to roll back some of the restrictions before the full commission votes on them, FCC officials said.

The request — which Wheeler has yet to respond to — puts the chairman in the awkward position of having to either roll back his proposals, or defend the tough rules and convince Clyburn to back down.

It’s an ironic spot for Wheeler, who for months was considered to be favoring weaker rules than those pushed for by his fellow Democrats, before he reversed himself about backing tougher restrictions on Internet service providers.

Wheeler will need the votes of both Clyburn and Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to pass the rules since the two Republicans on the commission are expected to vote against anything he proposes.

Clyburn’s changes would leave in place the central and most controversial component of Wheeler’s rules — the notion that broadband Internet service should be reclassified so that it can be treated as a “telecommunications” service under Title II of the Communications Act, similar to utilities like phone lines.

Proponents of net neutrality have said that move is the surest way to prevent Internet service providers from interfering with people’s access to the Web.

However, she wants to eliminate a new legal category of “broadband subscriber access services,” which was created as an additional point of legal authority for the FCC to monitor the ways that companies hand off traffic on the back end of the Internet.

Those deals, known as “interconnection” arrangements, became a point of contention last year, when Netflix accused Comcast and other companies of erecting “Internet tolls” before easily passing Web traffic from one network to another.

The initial plan sought by Wheeler would allow the FCC to investigate and take action against deals that are “not just and reasonable,” according to a fact sheet released by the FCC earlier this month.

Eliminating the new legal category could make it trickier for the FCC to police those arrangements, said the FCC officials, who were granted anonymity in order to speak freely about the ongoing negotiations.

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SOURCE: The Hill
Julian Hattem

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