Mozilla, the nonprofit organization that makes the Firefox browser, suggested a "hybrid" plan that would have the FCC apply Title II authority only to the relationship between websites and Internet providers, but not for the relationship between Internet providers and customers.
Chris Riley, Mozilla's head of public policy, said that he always preferred full Title II reclassification, but he believed he had to build a bridge for the FCC to get to that outcome. "Politically, whenever there is a binary choice on the table, it's extremely polarizing," he said.
The Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington-based nonprofit, and Tim Wu, the Columbia University law professor who coined the term "net neutrality," also submitted similar hybrid plans to the agency. So when Wheeler and his team began moving away from their initial proposal, they had an array of other options to consider.
"We collectively as a community brought the commission along, raising the baseline little by little," Riley said.
By September, the FCC was trying to find a creative way to use Title II, a major shift from the original plan.
OBAMA STEPS IN
While the main focus for net-neutrality advocates was always the FCC, they were also running parallel campaigns to enlist lawmakers and the White House to their side.
President Obama had been a net-neutrality supporter since he first made it a plank of his campaign platform in 2008. But advocates believed that, to really exert pressure on the FCC, they would have to get him to endorse Title II.
Ammori helped to organize meetings between small tech companies and net neutrality advocates with key White House aides such as R. David Edelman.
Megan Smith, the White House's chief technology officer and a former Google executive, told The New York Times that she made sure the president heard directly from Vint Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee, who were instrumental in creating the Internet and World Wide Web.
After November's midterm election, Obama decided it was time to intervene. It was around the same time that Obama was taking on Republicans on other liberal causes, such as his executive actions on immigration. On November 6, the White House dispatched Jeff Zients, the director of the National Economic Council, to tell Wheeler that the president would be outlining his own net-neutrality plan.
Four days later, in a YouTube video posted while the president was traveling in China, Obama said the FCC should enact rules to bar Internet service providers from blocking websites, throttling traffic, or creating any "fast lanes" for companies that pay more.
He urged the commission to invoke its authority under Title II, while also waiving some provisions, such as those allowing for price controls. "This is a basic acknowledgment of the services ISPs provide to American homes and businesses, and the straightforward obligations necessary to ensure the network works for everyone—not just one or two companies," Obama said.