FCC Chair: Courts Will Uphold New Internet Rules

March 30, 2015 Updated: March 30, 2015

More than a month after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created new rules for the Internet, multiple Internet service providers (ISPs) have launched challenges to the rules in court, but Tom Wheeler isn’t worried.

“One final prediction: the FCC’s new rules will be upheld by the courts,” the FCC chair said on Friday at Ohio State University. “The DC Circuit [court] sent the previous Open Internet Order back to us and basically said, “You’re trying to impose common carrier-like regulation without stepping up and saying, these are common carriers.'” We have addressed that issue, which is the underlying issue in all of the debates we’ve had so far.”

The Supreme Court ruled against the FCC in 2014, after it had appealed a lower court decision that struck down its 2010 net neutrality rules. In February, the FCC adopted a different legal maneuver, granting itself the power to govern ISPs by redefining them as common carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

However, opponents of the February order argue that the FCC arrogated too much power in the process, and could invite future commissions to arbitrarily set cable rates, among other possible abuses. Wheeler has criticized excessively high cable rates as stemming from lack of competition, but has hesitated in calling for regulating those rates.

“Many people are unhappy with cable rates, and customers are increasingly frustrated and looking for alternatives,” Wheeler said. “[With the reclassification] we can have a cop on the beat to enforce common sense rules of the road that ensure Internet openness for consumers and innovators, without any retail rate regulation or similar rules that would hamper investment in faster networks.”

However, many broadband executives say that investment in faster networks have already been delayed because the legal vortex provoked the reclassification, which has little to no precedent in history. Some in the telecom industry have called for net neutrality rules to be implemented legislatively through Congress rather than by the FCC.

“It is time for Congress to assert its longstanding role of setting, in a bipartisan fashion, public policies for the communications sector that both protect consumers and provide incentives for investment and innovation in new products and services,” Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam wrote in a letter to the Senate Commerce committee on Friday.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chair of the Commerce committee, has openly criticized the FCC for how it handled the net neutrality issue before, and has recently worked to pass a symbolic bill restricting its powers.