Crawford takes on reclassification, as FCC unrolls broadband plan
For an administration that has promised transparency, it’s sure hard to read what the White House is thinking about Internet policy these days. It has been particularly quiet about whether the Federal Communications Commission should reclassify broadband services to more clearly place it under the agency’s authority.
That’s why it’s particularly interesting when Susan Crawford blogs. The former economic adviser to President Obama left that job over the winter and is back to writing about broadband policy, reclassification and net neutrality. And in her writings, the University of Michigan law professor gives a glimpse into the thinking of at least one expert on communications policy and, more important, someone who has the ear of key officials at the FCC, according to sources.
She doesn’t put out her opinion directly, but last week Crawford took on the elephant in the room – the subject the FCC doesn’t talk about enough, according to some analysts and telecom lawyers. She walked readers through how a court could soon strip away the FCC’s authority over Internet access providers. And how the agency may respond.
“Now what? Where does the FCC’s authority to say anything about the basic transmission of Internet communications come from? If the FCC lacks this authority, can it say anything about universal service obligations shifting to support high-speed Internet access, or anything else having to do with transmission?” she wrote last week.
Sources close to the thinking of FCC officials say the agency may be inclined to raise the topic in the national broadband plan. And it would do so in the context of reforming the $8 billion Universal Service Fund. But those sources also question whether the agency would go so far as to recommend reclassifying broadband as Title 2 services. The move is sure to spark strong resistance from major telecom and cable carriers, which could hurt its other policy efforts.
FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, came by The Post last Tuesday to talk up his agency’s broadband plan. He said he is confident in the FCC’s authority over broadband services and will fight to prove it in its court battle against Comcast in the District appeals court.
Telecom and cable executives continue to warn against such a move, saying it would hurt innovation in networks from Internet service providers. An analyst told me last week that investor clients would “freak out” if the agency did so. A reclassification to Title 2 would put broadband services under a much more regulatory environment.
March 8, 2010; 9:15 AM ET
Categories: Broadband , Comcast , FCC
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