Clyburn to Focus on Consumer Impact, Mobile Broadband in Open Internet Rules

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By Lydia Beyoud

Sept. 24 — The Federal Communications Commission must avoid creating different rules for fixed and wireless broadband in its final Open Internet rules, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said at an event in Sacramento, Calif.

Speaking Sept. 24 at a public forum on net neutrality held by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Clyburn said she would focus her efforts in developing permanent rules on how they might impact consumers and how Americans use the Internet, including the “increased reliance on mobile broadband.”

“Mobile broadband looks quite different than it did in 2010, when the FCC adopted different Open Internet rules for mobile versus fixed,” Clyburn said at the forum, which was streamed online.

If different standards are established for fixed versus mobile Internet, the commission must review whether it would disproportionately impact communities that rely primarily on mobile devices for connectivity, she said.

Consumer Impact

Focusing on the legal issues in the net neutrality debate “puts the cart before the horse,” Clyburn said, adding that she wants to determine the right policy outcomes first and design an “appropriate legal framework” around it.

“As the FCC moves forward to consider permanent rules, my focus will be on the impact on consumers—something that I fear has gotten lost in this debate over 706 versus Title II, and the parsing through each word of the D.C. Circuit's decision,” Clyburn said.

She was referring to Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Title II of the Communications Act and Verizon Commc'ns Inc. v. FCC, (D.C. Cir., No. 11-1355, 1/14/14), in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down parts of the FCC's net neutrality rules.

Fellow Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel also spoke at the event, where she underscored her support for net neutrality.

“I believe the FCC must find a way to put Open Internet policies back in place, because we cannot have a two-tiered Internet,” Rosenworcel said in reference to paid-prioritization deals that could be allowed under the commission's proposal (Docket No. 14-28) to re-implement the agency's 2010 Open Internet rules.

Paid Prioritization

Matsui said she strongly opposed the idea of paid prioritization, which she said was a “tax on innovation and consumer choice.”

“The current net neutrality proposal by [FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler] is severely flawed. It would upend a basic principle that has guided the Internet's growth since its inception: all data should be treated equally,” she said.

“I am also hopeful that the chairman's final net neutrality proposal will prevent paid prioritization agreements from entering the marketplace. There is no room in our economy for this sort of anti-competitive practice,” Matsui added.

The FCC's proposal to which Matsui objects would permit Internet service providers such as AT&T Inc., Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. to strike deals with online content companies in return for prioritized service as long as the terms are “commercially reasonable.” The Open Internet notice of proposed rulemaking asks whether such deals should be prohibited.

In June, Matsui and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act (H.R. 4880, S. 2476) to direct the FCC to explicitly prohibit such deals because of the potential harm they pose to the concept of the open Internet.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lydia Beyoud in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at