FCC's Tom Wheeler on Open Internet Rules: 'We Shouldn't Be Going Backwards'

FCC's Tom Wheeler on Open Internet Rules: 'We Shouldn't Be Going Backwards'
Image credit: REUTERS | Yuri Gripas
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler gestures at the FCC Net Neutrality hearing in Washington.

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With the FCC's Open Internet rules set to go into effect on June 12, telecom companies such as AT&T and CenturyLink and industry groups including the American Cable Association and the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association have requested that certain aspects of the rules be blocked due to the increased compliance burdens.

But despite these kinds of complaints (which are likely to turn into legal suits) and powerful net neutrality opponents such as Mark Cuban, who recently blamed the new rules for the breakdown of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is optimistic about the road ahead.

Related: FCC Adopts Tough Net Neutrality Rule in Historic Regulatory Shift

In a conversation today at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York, Wheeler said that more than a dozen companies are currently suing the FCC, which he said he expected from the start of the debate over net neutrality. "I said all along, the big dogs are going to sue…the big dogs will sue on things they don't like, it's their right to." He went on to say that he felt confident about the outcome of the court cases.

Passed in February, the FCC's rules reclassified Internet Service Providers as “telecommunications services,” therefore subjecting them to increased regulation. The reclassification gives the FCC more power to prevent broadband providers from favoring certain content providers.

Related: Obama Throws Support Behind Net Neutrality

Wheeler said the impressive 4 million responses the open comment period yielded, "proved the power of an open internet to free expression." He said that while disputes aren't likely to disappear in the near future, "I hope that in this debate what we recognize is that on June 12…there will be in place the strongest open internet protections that anyone has ever imagined. And we shouldn't be going backwards from them."

Regarding Comcast and Time Warner Cable, Wheeler believes the companies' decision to pull the plug on their proposed merger was the right call. "Our concern was that it was not in the public interest to do this."

Related: Despite What Mark Cuban Says, Net Neutrality Will Not Create 'Uncertainty'

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