Wheeler’s opportunity to lead — if he’ll take it

Wheeler's opportunity to lead -- if he'll take it

Tuesday’s appeals court ruling overturning “net neutrality” gives new Federal Communications Commission Chair Tom Wheeler (photo) a wonderful opportunity to re-establish the FCC as a guardian of consumer interests.

Unfortunately, Wheeler doesn’t seem eager for the role.

Though he has declared himself a “strong supporter of the Open Internet rules full stop,” Wheeler’s first response to the court’s decision was all but indecipherable. Check it out:

“But the FCC also is not going to abandon its responsibility to oversee that broadband networks operate in the public interest. It is not going to ignore the historic reality that when a new network transitions to become an economic force that economic incentives begin to affect the public interest. This means that we will not disregard the possibility that exercises of economic power or of ideological preference by dominant network firms will diminish the value of the Internet to some or all segments of our society.”

Yikes! Let’s cut to the chase here. The court’s decision is dangerous. It demands prompt corrective action by the FCC. It invites big ISPs like Verizon and Time Warner Cable to turn broadband into cable television – by putting the most important sites behind special pay tiers. Like Netflix or Twitter? Get ready to pay a little extra or, worse yet, be cut off completely from these and other sites and applications that compete with your provider.

If the Chairman is serious about protecting consumers and preserving online freedom — and he certainly should be — it’s time to reclassify broadband.

Also check out our comic “Big Deal, Big Money” for a refresher on how Verizon has spent tens of millions over the years on to in lobbying and influence peddling to write the rules it wants – or sue for what it can’t get on Capitol Capital Hill. Learn how former FCC Chairman Michael Powell engineered the deregulation of deregulated broadband ” laying the groundwork for net neutrality’s demise ” before taking a cushy job in the cable industry.