FCC Won't Issue Public Notice On Net Neutrality Options

Source: Staff Feels Record Will Be Sufficient
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The FCC, according to a source, will not put out a formal public notice (PN) seeking additional comment on any of the proposed hybrid variations on new Open Internet rules offered up by various parties.

There had been some speculation such a PN could be issued, with sources saying earlier in the month that the chairman had made no decision one way or the other. But Politico had reported the FCC was leaning toward not issuing the notice, and a source familiar with the FCC's plans, who agreed to speak on background, said Monday that a PN was not going to be issued.

The source said FCC staffers feel there has been sufficient input on those suggestions, including filings in recent weeks, that made them more comfortable with not putting out a separate notice. Such a notice could delay the process given that the Commission would have to set a comment period, even if it were only a couple of weeks, and then vet those new comments.

As it is, the record is still evolving, said the source, as is Bureau analysis. And while the formal comment period is over, the FCC continues to get input, including through ex parte meetings and written filings. So it isn't as though the commission is no longer getting input. The staff is said to feel that a formal public notice is not necessary and that issuing one could add unnecessary delay.

The FCC has already received comments, millions of them, on the chairman's original Sec. 706-based proposal, and held numerous forums where the hybrid and Title II proposals were discussed and debated

New Open Internet rules are not expected to be ready for a vote until sometime in the first quarter as it is, with handicappers looking at March, or possibly February.  

The chairman has said that he wants to move quickly on new rules, but not so quickly as to leave any legal stone unturned since whichever way it goes, Title II or Sec. 706 or some combination, a lawsuit is almost a given.

Title II reclassification has looked more likely to be not just on the table but in the hopper, particularly after President Obama pressed the FCC to adopt Title II, or about as close as a President can get to urging an independent agency to do something. Industry players have been pushing back hard against that Title II possibility in recent weeks, providing more evidence that they fear it could wind up part of the new rules.

Currently the FCC's no-blocking and no-unreasonable discrimination rules do not apply after the court threw them out, though ISPs have pledged to abide by them anyway, and Comcast is required to under the terms of its NBC Universal merger condition.

ISPs have argued that a Sec. 706 approach is best, and a Title II common carrier approach is an innovation killer and investment chiller.