Tom Wheeler Still Wants To 'Split The Baby'; Forgetting That The Point Of That Story Was Not To Actually Split The Baby
from the slamming-on-the-breaks dept
The Washington Post put up an article last night claiming that FCC boss Tom Wheeler is telling tech companies that he isn’t going to follow President Obama’s net neutrality plan, following the President’s surprise announcement on Monday of his support for real net neutrality rules under Title II. We’ve heard from a few people who were at that meeting who claim that the Washington Post article isn’t entirely accurate. It is true that Wheeler is still very interested in a potential hybrid plan that almost no one likes, but that much of Wheeler’s statements at the meeting were actually more focused on delaying an official decision by the FCC, which many had expected to come in a December FCC meeting. Wheeler, it appears, wants more time to study the different options. Another FCC commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel (who seems more likely to support a plan including Title II reclassification), has apparently been pushing for the FCC to stick to the existing schedule and to make a decision “without delay.”
Still, it does appear that Wheeler wants more time to potentially explore the possibility of the hybrid option, or whether or not to really support the President’s Title II plan. According to the Washington Post, he made this rather unfortunate analogy:
“What you want is what everyone wants: an open Internet that doesn’t affect your business,” a visibly frustrated Wheeler said at the meeting, according to four people who attended. “What I’ve got to figure out is how to split the baby.”
Except, first of all, no, he doesn’t need to “split the baby.” The whole point of the split the baby story is not about compromising and going down the middle, but about how such a plan for a compromise is actually a decoy to get parties to reveal their true positions, leading to the final result, which does not involve such a compromise. Perhaps Wheeler thinks he’s playing the long game here, and his apparent attraction to the hybrid plan is something of a similar decoy, but it’s not at all clear right now.
Meanwhile, the White House is making lots of noise about how the President is really serious in supporting Title II and “itching for a fight” if Congress tries to challenge such net neutrality rules:
Ultimately, the White House decided that telecom companies probably would challenge any strong FCC rules in court anyway, so why not fully support calls by the tech lobby for far-reaching rules protecting an open Internet?
The aides saw a political upside to a strong statement. A key contingent of the president’s base — young, tech-savvy progressives — would be energized by the action, and a strong statement on net neutrality could also help his relationship with congressional Democrats, according to government and industry officials.
Obama also saw a more immediate opportunity to retake the political high ground from Republicans, according to a Democratic congressional aide. Should GOP lawmakers vote to overturn any protections enacted by the FCC, a presidential veto would put Obama on the side of millions of consumers who have called on the FCC to adopt strong regulations.
“I see him almost salivating over a congressional fight, or a fight with the carriers, over this issue,” said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk on the record. “This is a populist issue he thinks he can win on.”
If true, that’s a good sign, but unfortunately, we’ve grown accustomed to promises to take on issues like this, not followed up by any actual actions. But hopefully the message is being made clearly to Wheeler at this point that there is political backing if he decides to take the most reasonable step and support reclassification.