One reason to favor keeping economic incentives in place for ISPs is to help Americans gain more access to broadband from more providers. While 80% of Americans have broadband with speeds of 25Mbps for downloads, only 25% of them have a choice of more than one service provider.
"Hopefully we can overcome that," Wheeler said.
At a separate panel discussion at CES with the four commissioners of the FCC held after Wheeler spoke, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said she's interested in using open Internet deliberations to reach rules that protect average Internet users.
"Getting it right is the only option," she said. "What drives me in this is that big companies have lawyers and lobbyists, while the little guys only have their texts," she said, referring to the barrage of short messages that been aired on various social networks over the issue.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai urged the FCC to remain independent of the president's views and said that the open Internet could be jeopardized with Title II rules Obama has backed. Noting that Title II rules were intended to regulate wired telephones from the 1930s, Pai added that "there's no way the wired telephone is as innovative as the Internet."
Meredith Attwell Baker, CEO of CTIA, the nation's wireless trade association, issued a statement attacking one of Wheeler's suggestions to regulate mobile broadband similar to the way the FCC has regulated mobile voice.
"The FCC cannot now re-write Congress's intent.... The Chairman cannot now use the same deregulatory tool [used for mobile voice] to extend regulation and government intrusion where it has never been before," she said.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.