Congress and the FCC are squeezing in their last chess moves before the end of 2014. With net neutrality on the line, and decisions to be made about the future of TV, both legislators and regulators are maneuvering for position before 2015 rolls around.
First up, Republican Congressmen are floating the idea of new legislation that would allow the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to prohibit Internet service providers from offering paid prioritization of content online. According to sources cited by The Washington Post, lawmakers are close to proposing a new provision to the Communications Act called Title X. Title X would give the FCC the ability to prohibit ISPs from creating Internet "fast lanes" by either charging content providers for faster access to consumers or slowing select traffic online to favor one content producer over another.
The Congressmen behind the proposed Title X are reportedly working to introduce their legislation before the FCC acts on net neutrality next year. The hope is to avoid a decision by the FCC that could classify broadband as a Title II service, and thus subject to utility-style regulations. President Obama came out in favor of Title II in November, but opponents have argued that the agency can preserve net neutrality without taking that bold step. (See Wheeler: Between a Rock and a Hard Place.)
On the other side of the Internet, the FCC officially launched a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) last week, asking for comment on how it should define a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) in the future. The agency would like to open up the definition to include video providers that deliver linear TV streams online. If that happened, web startups such as the now-defunct Aereo Inc. would be allowed to compete with traditional cable TV companies.
News of a possible new NPRM first leaked earlier this month. Now that the document is official, the public has 30 days to submit initial comments and 45 days to hand in replies to others' comments. (See FCC Ready to Reclassify Some OTTs – Report .)
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading