Wheeler: No Timetable for Zero-Rating Review

FCC chairman says agency’s goal is regulatory certainty

WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler said Monday that he is trying to create regulatory certainty though an ex post examination of zero rating plans and data caps, but he also said he has no timetable for completing that review.

Access to the Internet is arguably the most important commodity in the current economy, Wheeler said in speaking to the INCOMPAS (formerly COMPTEL) show here on April 11. That’s one of the reasons there is a general-conduct standard in the FCC’s Open Internet order, he said: So the gency can look at potential threats to broadband openness on a case-by-case basis.

Wheeler said it was ironic that those who complaint the rules are not sufficiently certain also complain about the general conduct standard, which he said has “the ability to create certainty through ex post examination of the market.”

But while he said the ultimate goal is certainty, “[t]here is no definite end date or predetermined outcome for this inquiry,” he also said.

He did disclose one of the guiding principles as to how it will resolve that inquiry: “An incumbent should not be able to use its position as a gatekeeper to unfairly discriminate against unaffiliated content or services that may, today or tomorrow, pose a competitive threat to the incumbent’s own business.”

The FCC has “for too long … played a regulatory lawyer’s game dancing back and forth among legacy regulatory categories,” he said.

He said the question should be is the consumer’s choice being unfairly constrained. If the answer is yes, then the results will be lower quality, higher price or less innovation. If no, then everyone will have to compete for that viewer.