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FCC Chairman: Moving Slowly on Net Neutrality Because “Big Dogs Are Going to Sue”

With lawsuits from broadband providers a given, the FCC is taking its time for its next Internet proposal.

WilleeCole Photography/Shutterstock

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler brushed aside criticism that he’s not moving quickly enough on new net neutrality rules, saying the agency is going to take its time because of inevitable legal challenges.

“Look, the big dogs are going to sue regardless of what comes out. We need to make sure we have sustainable rules,” Wheeler told reporters during a press conference Friday. “That starts with making sure we have addressed the multiplicity of issues that come along and are likely to be raised.”

Wheeler said he wants to move forward “with dispatch” but also “wants to have rules that are sustained.”

He declined to say when he might unveil another proposal for net neutrality rules, which would be designed to prevent Internet providers from discriminating against or blocking legal Internet traffic. He also declined to say if the agency will formally ask for more comments about using a legal strategy offered by the White House last week.

Wheeler had been considering a complicated plan to use various parts of federal law to justify net neutrality rules. But that option became somewhat harder to take last week, after President Obama weighed in, saying the agency should reverse a decision a decade ago to deregulate Internet lines. He said the agency should re-regulate Internet lines under Title II of the Communications Act, which was written for old phone networks.

Supporters of that option say it would give the agency clear authority to act as a traffic cop over Internet lines. Detractors say it would force Internet providers to comply with old rules that weren’t designed for modern fiber networks and would discourage investment in Internet lines because companies could be forced to lease parts of their lines to competitors.

AT&T has already threatened to sue, and other broadband providers are also likely to join in any lawsuits if the FCC re-regulates Internet lines under Title II.

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