The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US has reportedly decided to postpone a crucial vote on net neutrality, due to take place next month, until 2015.
FCC press secretary Kim Hart told The Daily Dot that “there will be no vote on open internet rules in the December meeting agenda. That would mean rules would now be finalised in 2015.”
The announcement follows news that US president Barack Obama and the FCC appear to be at loggerheads over net neutrality principles.
While Obama has called for tighter government regulation of internet providers, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler (pictured) is adopting a different position, according to a report in The Washington Post, based on comments made by the FCC chief in a meeting with internet companies such as Google, Yahoo and Etsy.
Wheeler would deliver some of what the president wanted but also had to consider concerns of AT&T, Verizon and other firms that deliver internet connectivity, both fixed and mobile, he said in the meeting, following Obama’s comments.
“What you want is what everyone wants: an open internet that doesn’t affect your business.” said Wheeler, according to a number of people at the meeting. “What i’ve got to figure out is how to split the baby.”
“Net neutrality has been built into the fabric of the internet since its creation,” the President said earlier. “We cannot allow ISPs to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.”
President Obama wants the FCC to ban broadband providers from giving preferential treatment to some content providers over others and, in order to do this, to classify broadband as a utility or common carrier. This move would open up the industry to greater regulation.
The White House has not come out with any comment regarding Wheeler’s stance other than to reiterate that the FCC is an independent agency and that “ultimately this decision is theirs alone.”
Several times during the meeting with industry executives, Wheeler is reported to have said “I am an independent agency”.
The decision to make a public announcement about net neutrality comes at a time when Democrats are courting Silicon Valley as they gear up for the 2016 election.
Net neutrality is a regulatory issue from the telecoms industry – impacting both mobile and fixed services – that has crossed over to capture the imagination of the general public. In August, the FCC logged one million complaints about the issue.