The Federal Communications Commission says that – despite immense pressure from all sides – all options are still on the table for implementing its grand Open Internet scheme.
That's the scheme that may or may not end up enforcing so-called net neutrality rules on the internet, and has had millions of comments from the public and pleas from telcos piled into it.
Julie Veach, chief of the commission's wireline competition bureau, said on Monday that the watchdog is still considering, among various things, invoking Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which grants the FCC powers to directly oversee (cough, regulate) the deployment of broadband in America.
If that happened, the FCC could dictate how ISPs improve their internet services, and therefore perhaps accelerate the roll out of faster broadband, if necessary. A lack of healthy competition in the broadband market lies at the heart of the net neutrality debate in the US: if one or two telcos decide to start charging extra for, say, streaming video, subscribers could pick a rival that doesn't differentiate on network packet types. In theory.
And Veach said reclassifying ISPs under Title II of Telecommunications Act of 1934 was also still being considered by the commission: such a move would treat broadband as a tightly regulated "common carrier service" like phone lines, effectively forcing telcos to treat all packets the same.
Veach said companies, pressure groups and citizens have suggested ways the commission could enforce net neutrality provisions without regulating internet service providers.
And she said the FCC's dealings with Congress, and numerous roundtable discussions, have also brought ideas on how net neutrality could be enforced. In some of the proposals, it is suggested that the FCC develop a "hybrid" approach that uses portions of both Section 706 and Title II provisions.
"Commenters have suggested how Section 706 could be used. For example, AOL supports reclassification under Title II with substantive rules promulgated under Section 706," Veach wrote.
"And AT&T has suggested paid prioritization could be banned under Section 706."
The comments come as the FCC continues to gather public input ahead of the rollout of new Open Internet policies. The process has drawn record-setting levels of public comment and, with the comment system closed, the commission is undertaking a series of round table discussions, the last of which is scheduled for October 7. ®