Mobile World Congress: FCC chief defends US move to regulate internet

Tom Wheeler indicates arbiter for internet just and reasonable in interests of fairness

Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Tom Wheeler: Compared fifth-generation mobile networks (5G) to a Picasso painting. Photograph: Bloomberg

Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Tom Wheeler: Compared fifth-generation mobile networks (5G) to a Picasso painting. Photograph: Bloomberg

 

The internet can’t exist without a referee, Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler has said.

Speaking at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday, he defended the US agency’s move to regulate the internet.

“This is no more regulating the internet than the first amendment regulates free speech,” he said.

The internet needs a referee to decide which practices by carriers are fair, he added.

“The basic question comes down to this: and that is, if the internet is the most powerful and pervasive platform in this history of the planet, which I believe it is, can it exist without a referee?” he asked.

“That their needs to be a referee with a yardstick, or a meter stick here . . . it’s just and reasonable,” he said.

Mr Wheeler compared fifth-generation mobile networks (5G) to a Picasso painting. “We all look at it and see something different,” he said.

European commissioner for the digital economy, Gunther Oettinger, said 5G networks represent an opportunity for the telecom sector to reinvent itself,

Industry partners

He said telecom operators should be able to provide specialised network services to a series of new industry partners, from the automotive, to rail, health or energy sectors, with 5G.

“To guarantee that connected cars will be able to react in less than 1 millisecond and avoid collisions,” he added.

He said the advanced 5G infrastructure is expected to become the nervous system of the digital society and digital economy.

“With the Internet of Things, we see a new era of connectivity where billions of devices exchange data and instil intelligence in our everyday life. From watches to shoes. From fridges to heating. From hospitals to factories. But this requires a new generation of communication networks.”

He said 5G is expected to be the connectivity infrastructure that will foster this industrial and societal transformation.

“It is not ‘only’ about more of the same: more capacity, more content, more speed. This is needed, but not good enough.”