The Federal Communications Commission reportedly wants to decide the fate of net neutrality on February 26. “We’re going to circulate it to the commissioners on February 5 and vote on it February 26,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro, during a public interview at CES today.
Getting an exact date is vital for the many lobby groups that will end up running campaigns for and against net neutrality. It’s one of the technology industry’s most important issues, and the public submitted over 1 million comments on the FCC’s official feedback portal about it. Nearly all of them were pro-net neutrality, and these will serve as fodder for the coming campaigns.
Wheeler’s slow, deliberate style has frustrated hardliners on both sides; Republicans and the telecommunication industry want more freedom to charge higher rates for a better Internet connection. Internet companies and watchdog groups have lobbied for the FCC to reclassify the Internet as a utility, which would give the agency more authority to prevent telecom companies from developing paid Internet “fast lanes.”
President Obama has officially sided with tech companies and is actively pressuring the chairman to take strict measures to protect net neutrality.
Now that we have a date, expect to see sophisticated campaigns to sway the FCC vote in February. I expect that it will dominate the news during the days leading up to the crucial vote. We’ll have more details as they come in.