FCC won’t vote on Net Neutrality in November

The FCC will not be voting this November on the adoption of the “Restoring Internet Freedom” rule that would roll back 2015’s Net Neutrality rules, contrary to recent rumors. In a blog post, Chairman Ajit Pai listed a number of items the commission will be voting on, and the proposed rule isn’t among them.

I’ve contacted the commission to confirm this, but it’s extremely unlikely that it would exclude something that major from its stated plans (not to mention extremely disingenuous). Update: An FCC representative confirmed that the vote won’t be in November, and we can expect 3 weeks of warning before any such action.

That doesn’t mean important things aren’t on the docket. Here are the items the FCC, now at full strength with five members, will be voting on next month:

  • Combating robocalls and other phone-based spam
  • Opening 1,700 more megahertz of spectrum for 5G networks
  • Official adoption of the improved ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard
  • Ignoring historic preservation review on replacing utility poles
  • “Common-sense measures” to ease transition from copper to fiber
  • Revamping the Lifeline connectivity subsidy program
  • Updating cable operator reporting rules
  • “Modernizing our media ownership rules”

Many of the other measures are either routine or easy to support; the FCC does in fact do a lot of good work that goes undocumented by major outlets, a fact often forgotten in the heat of controversy. But that last item is definitely going to stir the pot.

The FCC will be eliminating rules limiting cross-ownership of broadcast and newspaper outlets, and of TV and radio stations. It would also eliminate the “eight voices” rule that protects independently owned stations, and ease TV join sales agreements.

Don’t worry, all this has nothing to do with the Sinclair-Tribune merger the FCC is considering, and which many worry will produce problematic consolidation in the broadcast world of just the type enabled by the suggested rules. “This transaction is in no way the catalyst for FCC action on these issues,” wrote Commissioner O’Rielly last week.

Oh, and they’re starting an incubator.

You can expect vigorous discussion of the new media ownership rules (which the industry has been pursuing for years) over the coming month.