After months of deliberation and millions of comments in support of net neutrality, Federal Communications Commission head Tom Wheeler is expected later this week to present a set of rules to the FCC that will treat internet service providers (ISP) like utility companies. These rules will prevent ISPs from charging companies for the privilege of having their content delivered to consumers at faster speeds than those companies who do not pay, Politico reported.
Wheeler is a former lobbyist for major broadband internet and cellphone providers, and many thought that his ties to these companies would mean he would strike down net neutrality to appease them.
However, the backlash against the essentially “pay-to-play” model proposed by the ISPs held Wheeler’s feet to the fire.”[I]nterviews with FCC officials, industry executives and representatives of public interest groups reveal the origins of his dramatic pivot on this issue,” Politico said, “an intense and relatively brief grassroots lobbying campaign that targeted two people – [Wheeler] and President Barack Obama.”
His initial idea to allow the ISPs to charge websites like Netflix, Hulu, etc., more for faster content delivery angered not only consumers, but gigantic corporations like Google and public interest groups like Free Press.
“Free Press called Wheeler’s proposal ‘an insult,’” reported Politico. “Tech companies from Google to Kickstarter called the rules ‘a grave threat’ to the Web. [And] Wheeler found little public support from his fellow Democrats.”
By October, the FCC had received nearly 4 million comments in support of net neutrality — the highest number of complaints ever received, even more than after the infamous 2004 Super Bowl halftime show where America was forced to endure a nanosecond of Janet Jackson’s exposed breast.
In November, even President Obama said that he was in favor of regulating broadband service like other utilities. And the fear that such regulation would hamper investments “took a hit when Verizon’s CFO said in December that the move would ‘not influence the way we invest,’ a sentiment echoed by Sprint.
This reversal proves that the American people still have the power to affect change. It might have taken a segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver to bring the importance of net neutrality to bring the problem to the public’s attention, but nearly a year and millions of comments later, the former-lobbyist is finally doing what’s right for the country, and the internet, as a whole.
Watch Oliver’s coverage of net neutrality.