FCC Chairman Explains His '90s Startup Failure, Plans for the Internet in Op-Ed

Tom Wheeler

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, in an editorial for Wired, has outlined in broad strokes his plans for the FCC's reclassification of high-speed Internet as a utility, with some notable provisos.

Wheeler's editorial is in line with reports from earlier this week, including the addition of mobile broadband access to the measures he plans on undertaking. Notably, Wheeler writes that "my proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone's permission." Wheeler is also going to propose no limits on rates, tariffs, or "last-mile" unbundling, allowing the market to correct itself.

"I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC," writes Wheeler. "These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. I propose to fully apply -- for the first time ever -- those bright-line rules to mobile broadband. My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone's permission."

Wheeler outlines his experience in the startup world, and the failure of his company, NABU, due to his reliance on cable operators' closed networks. His chief rival, AOL, rose to become one of the '90s biggest success stories, with a business based on open phone networks. "The phone network's openness did not happen by accident," writes Wheeler of AOL's technological underpinning, "but by FCC rule."