Public interest group urges FCC to reclassify broadband
Update: on Commissioner Copps Quote
A public interest group told the Federal Communications Commission it should reclassify broadband Internet services to erase any uncertainty over the agency’s authority to oversee Internet service providers.
Public Knowledge said in public comments filed to the FCC that a slew of policies the agency is working on are in jeopardy as fresh doubts have emerged whether the commission even has the jurisdiction to implement rules over broadband.
“Without clear legal authority, the commission might find itself unable to respond to the needs of public safety, unable to protect privacy, and incapable of collecting needed information to ensure that the Internet remains affordable, open and competitive,” said Harold Feld, legal director for Public Knowledge.
Specifically, that casts questions over FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s push for net neutrality rules. The agency is supposed to come up with a plan to bring broadband to every U.S. home. But if the agency is unable to regulate Internet access, opponents could challenge any attempts to create new policies such as Universal Service Fund reform.
Questions over the FCC’s legal authority over broadband services emerged after a federal appeals court grilled the agency over its 2008 ruling against Comcast for allegedly blocking the Internet file-sharing application, BitTorrent.
Post Tech wrote about how comments from judges in the D.C. appeals court have sparked some at the FCC to consider a reclassification of broadband services under Title 2 of the Communications Act. That would put broadband, currently held at an arms-length from the FCC’s jurisdiction, clearly under control of the agency.
Genachowski’s office has said it still believes it can win Comcast’s case against it in the appeals court. But if backed into a corner, the FCC could push forward with a reclassification. To reclassify would undo deregulation of Internet services in 2002 by then FCC Chairman Michael Powell, who placed broadband services under Title 1, over which the agency had "ancillary" jurisdiction. The FCC could reclassify broadband by introducing an order and voting within the commission.
Commissioner Michael Copps hasn't commented on the idea of reclassification or the federal appeals case. But he said in a story:
"While I am still hopeful that we'll win the case, I am absolutely certain that consumers expect protection against gatekeeper control," said Commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat. "That's why we need to move forward with whatever tools we have at our disposal to ensure an open Internet."
January 27, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Broadband , Comcast , FCC
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