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On this, AT&T and Verizon agree: FCC shouldn't assert more control over broadband

AT&T agrees with fierce competitor Verizon on this: The Federal Communications Commission shouldn't reclassify broadband services.

In a blog post Thursday, AT&T's head lobbyist, Jim Cicconi, backed Verizon Communications in its call earlier this week for Congress to reexamine the way the federal government oversees Internet services -- including access providers like them, cable and satellite services.

The comments come amid a growing debate on what the role of the FCC should be over broadband services as a federal appeals court has cast doubt on the agency's ability to regulate that communications service. Comcast, the nation's largest cable and Internet service provider, brought a case against the agency that has sparked the debate.

Public interest group Public Knowledge has urged the FCC to consider reclassifying broadband services as Title 2 common carriage to clearly mark them as under control of the agency. Analysts have also explained that such a move would help the agency erase continued doubts over the FCC's role in the Internet age.

Cicconi warned against doing so.

"The FCC derives its authority from the Congress, and if the courts say the FCC lacks the authority it needs to do what it wants to do, the proper -- and constitutionally correct -- answer is to ask the Congress to address the question. Any other answer will appear as a means-justifies-the-ends rationalization by the Commission … an action it can’t reasonably expect anyone in disagreement to accept. At best, it would lead to litigation and investment uncertainty."

The FCC has said it will continue to fight its battle in court and that it believes it has authority over broadband services under Title 1. It hasn't said whether it would reclassify broadband services.

By Cecilia Kang  |  March 25, 2010; 11:59 AM ET
Categories:  AT&T , Broadband , FCC , Verizon  
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It is important to remember that, contrary to the unspoken implication of Mr. Cicconi's warning, Congress never divested the FCC of authority to regulate broadband communications facilities.

It was the FCC that decided, during the Bush administration, to classify broadband Internet access services as non-common carrier services. Public interest advocates believe that the FCC can and should reconsider this decision. In fact, even Justice Scalia agreed that the Bush-era FCC's reasoning for its decisions was suspect at best.

No one here -- other than Verizon, perhaps, in the form of Mr. Tauke's speech yesterday -- is talking about "regulating the Internet." What we are concerned about are the last-mile bottlenecks that people still must use to access the Internet, and that large carriers still control.

Posted by: mattfwood | March 25, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

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