During a keynote speech Tuesday at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler defended last week’s FCC order, which reclassifies broadband Internet services under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, emphasizing that the FCC intends to enforce the new rules on a case-by-case basis that is guided not by regulatory stricture but by “a referee with a yard stick.”   

Wheeler’s speech was followed by a question-and-answer session at which GSM Association Director General Anne Bouverot asked Wheeler about the impact of the new rules on edge providers, public interest groups and consumers and how the FCC would apply the rules to various services.  As he maintained that the rules are designed to promote innovation and investment, Wheeler explained, “there are no broad stroke regulations saying, ‘this is how you will do things’” but “a structure to say, ‘do we have a set of rules that says activities are just and reasonable and someone can throw the flag if it is not.’”  Noting that the U.S. wireless sector has long been subject to a Title II regime in which the FCC forbears from enforcing 19 of the 48 Title II regulations, Wheeler informed his audience that the FCC will forbear from enforcing 27 of those regulations under the provisions of last week’s order.  Armed with leaflets listing the Title II rules to be subject to forbearance under last week’s order, Wheeler proclaimed there will be “no utility-style regulation, no rate regulation, no tariffing, no network unbundling, no regulation of technical operating requirements [and] no new taxes or fees.”

As she questioned Wheeler’s support for “a 1930’s law to regulate a 21st century technology,” Bouverot suggested that the Title II order could weaken the competitive stance of the U.S. against foreign carriers and governments that support data prioritization arrangements enabling web content providers to offer “fast-track” streaming and other transmission services to their customers.   Dismissing these concerns,” Wheeler proclaimed, “we remain absolutely steadfast in opposition to intergovernmental structures that seek to impose their will on how the Internet operates,” adding: “there is no more regulation of the Internet than the First Amendment regulates speech.”