The roiling debate over net neutrality rules got another jolt Wednesday when two of the FCC's Democratic commissioners pushed for strong net neutrality regulations, and one indicated that strict net neutrality rules should apply to wireless as well as wireline networks. Meanwhile, the CTIA and wireless carriers continued to push back against the notion that the regulations should cover mobile technologies.
WASHINGTON--The FCC voted to approve draft net neutrality rules that would re-examine whether to treat wireless networks differently from wired broadband networks as the commission seeks to craft new rules that would ensure consumers get equal access to all Internet content.
The Federal Communications Commission, in a three-to-two vote, is moving ahead to implement new rules that would open the way for Internet service providers to charge websites for faster and higher-quality delivery of content to consumers. The plan has all kinds of implications for how online content is delivered, how much it will cost, and which companies have deep enough pockets to compete.
Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has said that it might be necessary for Sprint and T-Mobile US to merge in order to remain viable players in the U.S. wireless market, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. That position is notable as it could represent an easing of regulatory opposition to the proposed deal, which Sprint and parent SoftBank have been floating during the past several months.
The FCC is poised to open more of the 5 GHz band for unlicensed Wi-Fi use, though the exact rules for doing so are not yet finalized.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the FCC should seize a near-term opportunity to use more of the 5 GHz band for unlicensed wireless use, and also explore ways to make use of guard bands that will be produced in the 600 MHz spectrum auction for unlicensed purposes.
The FCC plans to issue a report and order on the planned structure of the incentive auctions of 600 MHz broadcast TV spectrum sometime this spring, and then start accepting bids from TV stations for the reverse part of the auction in early 2015.
The FCC said in a public notice that it will start an auction of the 1900 MHz PCS H Block on Jan. 14, 2014, its first major spectrum auction since 2008. The auction is likely to draw interest from Sprint, while Dish Network has signaled it will likely not participate.
President Obama nominated Michael O'Rielly, a top aide to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), for a spot as one of the two Republican commissioners of the FCC.
President Obama is expected to nominate former CTIA chief Tom Wheeler to be the next chairman of the FCC, according to multiple reports, which would place the former telecom industry lobbyist at the head of regulating an increasingly complex wireless industry.