Network Neutrality – What to Expect on Thursday

While there still is some chance for a postponement, the FCC is expected to adopt a notice of proposed rulemaking on network neutrality at its open meeting on Thursday. These are the key elements of what is likely to happen at the meeting:

  • The FCC will not adopt rules on Thursday. Instead, it will be issuing a proposal for new rules. The proposal will be subject to change based on the comments the FCC receives.
  • Chairman Wheeler has stated that the proposed rules will include expanded disclosures by broadband providers, a reinstated rule against blocking access to content and a new rule to prevent states from limiting municipal deployment of broadband services.
  • The proposal also will include a revised rule to combat discrimination by broadband providers. Early press reports suggested that this rule would have been less restrictive than the rule adopted in 2011, but in the last few days there have been indications that the proposal is changing to more closely resemble the original rule.
  • The notice of proposed rulemaking will ask for comment on whether broadband service should be reclassified as a common carrier service (like local telephone service), but will not actually propose reclassification.
  • The comment period is likely to extend into the summer, but not into the fall. However, the FCC will continue to accept submissions and have meetings with interested partiesafter the formal comment period ends.
  • Because there is significant partisan disagreement about network neutrality, both Republicans will oppose the notice of proposed rulemaking. This will have little impact on the likelihood the FCC will adopt new rules.
  • Chairman Wheeler has committed to prompt action, but a final decision adopting new rulesis not likely to come much before the end of 2014.