June 27, 2014
The Honorable Bill Nelson
United States Senate
716 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator Nelson:
Thank you for writing to express your concerns regarding the need to reinstate rules to
preserve an open Internet for all Americans. I share your sense of urgency on this matter. For
this reason, I moved with dispatch to initiate a proceeding to consider new open Internet rules to
replace those that were vacated by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the Verizon case. As you
know, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ("Notice") adopted by the Commission in May 2014
begins that process. Therein, we ask a number of questions about the rules we need to adopt, as
well as the appropriate legal foundation for such rules. Your letter touches on some of the most
important issues presented in the Notice, and I will ensure that it is included in the record of the
proceeding and considered as part of the Commission's review.
The Commission has struggled for over a decade with how best to protect and promote an
open Internet. While there has been bipartisan consensus, starting under the Bush
Administration with Chairman Powell, on the importance of an open Internet to economic
growth, investment, and innovation, we find ourselves today faced with the worst case scenario:
we have no Open Internet rules in place to stop broadband providers from limiting Internet
openness. The status quo is unacceptable. The Commission has already found, and the court has
agreed, that broadband providers have economic incentives and technological tools to engage in
behavior that can limit Internet openness and harm consumers and competition. As such, the
Commission must craft meaningful rules to protect the open Internet, and it must do so promptly.
I can assure you that I will utilize the best tools available to me to ensure the Commission adopts
effective and resilient open Internet rules. Unless and until the Commission adopts new rules,
broadband providers will be free to block, degrade, or otherwise disadvantage innovative
services on the Internet without threat of sanction by the FCC.
With respect to the legal foundation of the rules, I believe that the Section 706 framework
set forth by the court provides us with the tools we need to adopt and implement robust and
enforceable Open Internet rules. Nevertheless, the Commission is also seriously considering
moving forward to adopt rules using Title II of the Communications Act as the foundation for
our legal authority. The Notice seeks comment on the benefits of both Section 706 and Title II,
including the benefits of one approach over the other, to ensure the Internet remains an open
platform for innovation and expression.
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With respect to the substance of the rules, the proposals and questions in the Notice are
designed to elicit a record that will give us a foundation to adopt strong, enforceable rules to
protect the open Internet and prevent broadband providers from harming consumers or
competition. I am especially sensitive to your concerns about paid prioritization arrangements,
and the potential such arrangements have for creating an Internet "haves" and "have nots." Let
me be crystal clear: there must only be one Internet. It must be fast, robust and open for
everyone. The Notice addresses this issue head-on, even asking if paid prioritization should be
banned outright. It also proposes clear rules of the road and aggressive enforcement to prevent
unfair treatment of consumers, edge providers and innovators. Small companies and startups
must be able to reach consumers with their innovative products and services, and they must be
protected against harmful conduct by broadband providers.
The Notice also includes a number of proposals designed to empower consumers and
small businesses who may find themselves subject to harmful behavior by a broadband provider.
For example, the Court of Appeals did uphold our existing transparency rule, and the Notice
proposes to strengthen that rule to require that networks disclose any practices that could change
a consumer's or a content provider's relationship with the network. The Notice proposes the
creation of an ombudsperson to serve as a watchdog and advocate for start-ups, small businesses
and consumers. And the Notice seeks comment on how to ensure that all parties, and especially
small businesses and start-ups, have effective access to the Commission's dispute resolution and
This Notice is the first step in the process, and I look forward to comments from all
interested stakeholders, including members of the general public, as we develop a fulsome record
on the many questions raised in the Notice. To that end, in an effort to maximize public
participation in this proceeding, we have established an Open Internet email address -
firstname.lastname@example.org- to ensure that Americans who may not otherwise have the opportunity
to participate in an FCC proceeding can make their voices heard. In addition, to ensure sufficient
opportunity for broad public comment, we have provided a lengthy comment and reply period
through September 10, 2014, that will allow everyone an opportunity to participate.
Again, I appreciate your deep interest in this matter and look forward to continued
engagement with you as the proceeding moves forward.
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