FCC Chairman on Obama's proposal: 'I am an independent agency'


— 11:47 AM on November 12, 2014

Earlier this week, President Obama came out in support of strong net neutrality protections, advocating for the reclassification of the Internet as a utility. Will the FCC heed Obama's suggestions? Probably not, according to the Washington Post's latest story.

The Post says FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler met with web company executives after Obama's announcement on Monday. At the meeting, Wheeler is said to have "repeatedly" asserted, "I am an independent agency." Wheeler went on to advocate for a "more nuanced solution" (in the Post's words) that may fall short of Obama's proposal.

"What you want is what everyone wants: an open Internet that doesn't affect your business," a visibly frustrated Wheeler said at the meeting, according to four people who attended. "What I've got to figure out is how to split the baby."

We don't know what steps Wheeler ultimately intends to take, but the Post speculates that the FCC Chairman views the president's proposal as "too simplistic" and liable to "stifle innovation and slow the growth of the country’s broadband infrastructure." Wheeler has previously suggested curbing (rather than eliminating) the power service providers have to charge web companies for access.

Before being appointed as FCC Chairman by President Obama two years ago, Wheeler served as a lobbyist for the cable and telecommunications industry, heading the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and, subsequently, the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. The Post describes Wheeler as a long-time ally of the president who contributed to his election campaign.

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