Ex-FCC chief shocked by Obama net rules meddling

Net neutrality on the line
Net neutrality on the line

The net neutrality rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission and expected to be voted on this week are a "sad example of unreasoned decision-making," former FCC Chairman Michael Powell told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday.

"Watching the president of the United States come on a YouTube video and direct the FCC to adopt a very specific regulatory result, I think … was shocking and put the commission in an untenable position," said Powell, who served under President George W. Bush.

In November, President Barack Obama urged the FCC to take up the "strongest possible rules" to make sure all Internet traffic is treated equally.

A vote on current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's net neutrality plans is expected Thursday. Asked whether Wheeler might listen to critics and slow things down, Powell said, "They're locked and loaded, and it's too late ... [to] turn back."

In a separate interview on "Squawk Box," Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp talked about why he supports strong net neutrality rules. He argued it's important to create a "competitive market for carriers" and a "free, open marketplace of services."

Read MoreTumblr CEO: Net neutrality rules like Bill of Rights

Ahead of the vote, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, sent a letter to Wheeler on Monday calling for the public release of the 332-page Internet regulation plan.

FCC commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly issued a similar request, and called for a delay in the vote to allow for 30 days of public comment.

Wheeler's net neutrality plan would put Internet service in the same regulatory camp as the telephone. Using Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, the agency would be given broad authority to ban providers from manipulating online content.

"This issue is ripe for Congress to fix," said Powell, current president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. As the principal trade association for the cable industry, the association represents Comcast, parent company of CNBC.

"When Congress realizes the order goes far beyond protecting net neutrality ... and in fact introduces a new regulatory regime for the Internet, there may be growing interest in trying to reach a conventional solution," he said.

Earlier this month, AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson told CNBC he supports the original idea of a "free and open Internet ... without any blocking and without any prioritization." But he argued, "We have now, under the president's urging with the FCC, moved from pursuing a free and open Internet to regulating the Internet end to end."

If these rules were adopted, Stephenson warned, there would be litigation, with the industry probably "asking for a stay" to prevent them from going into effect.

Powell also sees litigation as the likely next step, but he warned it may drag out. "I would predict that it's at least two and up to five years before the rules are fully and finally settled."