Groups plan rally during final FCC meeting of the year

Last month, President Barack Obama called on FCC Chair Tom Wheeler to use Title II of the Telecommunications Act to enact regulations ensuring all Internet users have equal ease of access to websites regardless of their service provider. Obama’s taped comments played on a large television screen parked outside the Federal Communications Bar Association’s Annual Chairman’s Dinner last Thursday evening — the so-called “Telecom Prom” given the attendees — thanks to Free Press, a nonpartisan organization working in support of tough net neutrality protections.

But one report noted that inside, Wheeler joked about the ongoing debate over net neutrality.

When he was supposed to take the stage, attendees instead saw a video of Wheeler, sitting in a Mini Cooper, surrounded on three sides by protesters, unable to leave his driveway.

Wheeler reported stressed that the car “is not a hybrid,” a reference to the Title II/ Section 706 proposal that Obama strongly supports Wheeler using in drafting new regulations.

On Thursday morning, Free Press and other groups are calling on neutrality supporters to rally in front of the FCC’s meeting calling for Wheeler to take Obama’s advice, but the chance of any announcement coming that day are slim.

At the same time, there’s been an increase in ads suggesting application of Title II to net neutrality would mean heftier Internet bills for consumers. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association says if that portion of the Telecommunications Act is used on Internet speed regulation, consumers will pay more for Internet service in addition to facing new federal, state and local taxes while network access is slower and less money is invested in new connectivity.

“Let’s not abandon the virtuous cycle that is helping build faster networks for one that promises greater government control, higher prices and stalled investment,” the NCTA says. “Let’s choose a future that embraces progress, not expensive regulations.”

A new paper from the Progressive Policy Institute, published earlier this month, also supports the argument that stricter regulations will impede Internet access, not protect it, and consumers will have to dig deeper into their pockets for inferior service.

“How deep? We have calculated that the average annual increase in state and local fees levied on U.S. wireline and wireless broadband subscribers will be $67 and $72, respectively. And the annual increase in federal fees per household will be roughly $17. When you add it all up, reclassification could add a whopping $14 billion in new user fees on top of the planned $1.5 billion extra to fund the E-Rate program. The higher fees could come on top of the adverse impact on consumers of less investment and slower innovation that would result from reclassification.”

The eight-page paper is complete with two appendices showing the range of increased fees that might be faced by fixed wireless and wireline (broadband) users in each state.

Check out my previous article on Net Neutrality.

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