Senators Urge FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to ‘Move Quickly’ to Preserve ‘Open Internet’

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Five U.S. senators have sent a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler in which they call on him to “act with expediency” to come up with a plan after the D.C. Circuit Court overturned the agency’s Net neutrality rules last month.

The Democratic senators — Ron Wyden of Oregon, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Al Franken of Minnesota — urged Wheeler to “quickly adopt enforceable rules to prevent the blocking and discrimination of Internet traffic.”

In 2010, the FCC adopted a set of Net neutrality rules that, among other things, prevented Internet service providers from degrading or blocking traffic except for “reasonable network management.” One reason for the rules was to prevent Internet providers from favoring certain types of traffic over others.

But Verizon challenged the rules, claiming that the agency didn’t have the authority to impose them. The D.C. Circuit did support the FCC’s ability to regulate Internet providers, but found fault with the way that it went about doing it. The judges ruled that the FCC was treating Internet providers as “common carriers,” akin to a landline phone company, without explicitly classifying them as such.

House Democrats have already proposed legislation to restore the Net neutrality rules, but their bill is not expected to get very far given Republican opposition to such regulation.

In a speech on Monday, Wheeler said that he would outline a proposal in the coming days on how he plans to proceed.

Wheeler has not said whether he will seek an appeal of the ruling or attempt to devise a set of new rules. He has hinted at taking a case-by-case approach, with speculation on Wall Street that the agency would come up with a set of industry standards that would essentially put Internet providers on notice for any anti-competitive behavior.

In his speech, he noted that the D.C. Circuit “affirmed that Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 gives the FCC authority to encourage broadband deployment by, among other things, removing barriers to infrastructure deployment and promoting competition.”

“Bigger picture, the FCC has the authority it needs to provide what the public needs – open, competitive, safe and accessible broadband networks,” Wheeler said. “Indeed, that we have authority is well settled. What remains open is not jurisdiction, but rather the best path to securing the public interest.”