Wheeler: President and I Agree On Paid Prioritization

Has Not Met with President, Is Aligned on Openness

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Friday that he and President Obama are in agreement on paid prioritization and not dividing the Internet into haves and have nots, and always have been.

The President said at an innovation forum in California Oct. 9 that he was opposed to paid prioritization, that tiered Internet service should not be allowed, and that he expected the FCC to insure that that did not happen.

Wheeler has proposed restoring network neutrality rules thrown out by the courts in a way that would allow for commercially reasonable discrimination, though he has since said that was a proposal and final rules had not been arrived at.

At a press conference following its public meeting Friday, Wheeler steered one question toward the President's statement so he could reiterate where the two were in agreement, "and always had been."

Asked about his contacts with the White House over net neutrality, Wheeler said that he had not had “personal communications”  the President on the net neutrality rule revamp, but had kept the White House staff informed about the process, as he has Congressional staffers.

"There has been a lot of interpretation about what the President said, and I wanted to be clear that my position is unchanged."

He said he and the President agreed, and always had, about the importance of an open Internet--it was a campaign issue for the President in 2008--in creating the next Google or Facebook.

"The President said that he was opposed to paid prioritization, and when we rolled out the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking NPRM), I said: 'If prioritization hurts the virtuous circle, or is anti-competitive, or anti-consumer, or anti-innovative or degrades the network, it is dead on arrival."

That "if" could allow for the kind of commercially reasonable discrimination that lets life-saving telemedicine applications be prioritized, while not allowing favoring ones owned online video service over a competitor, or degrading a competitor's service.

"The President also said that, 'we're not creating two or three or four tiers of the Internet.' At the open meeting where we rolled out the NPRM, I said: 'The prospect of a gatekeeper choosing winners and losers is unacceptable.' And then a week or so later, when I was testifying before the Energy & Commerce Committee and I was asked a similar question, I said, quote: 'I don't think there should be haves and have nots."

"So, my position is unchanged, and I believe that on the important question of paid prioritization and opportunity that is created by an Open Internet, the President and I are in agreement and have always been."