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Mixed signals: Does the FCC have authority to regulate broadband?

Does the Federal Communications Commission have the authority to regulate broadband services? I'm scratching my head after a Senate Commerce Committee hearing at which FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski seemed to say two different things: He believes it does under communications law but is also deliberating how to make sure the FCC has solid legal footing on broadband going forward.

In the hearing, he said: "It potentially raises question[s] in a number of areas, including universal service to rural areas, public safety and cybersecurity. That’s why it's important to make sure everything we do has a solid legal foundation."

So I told Genachowski after the hearing: I don't get it.

My question to him: So are you saying there's a chance you may not be able to carry out proposals related to those issues?

"I hope not, because my hope is moving forward on recommendations that we are working on," Genachowski said. "We are in the middle of evaluating and in discussions. There are a number of different directions we can take."

His comments still leave me with more questions than answers. Readers, your thoughts?

By Cecilia Kang  |  April 14, 2010; 4:45 PM ET
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"Readers, your thoughts?"

Let me go ahead and answer for Brett Glass, so he has time to do something more productive. Brett will say, "Google-shill, bias, "slanted," Google-lobbyist, Google, Google, Google, Cecilia is the devil."

My own thoughts? Empty-suit politician with no guts. Story at 11.

Posted by: DottieBunch | April 14, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: itkonlyyou5 | April 14, 2010 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Congress needs to grant the FCC this authority ASAP.

Posted by: plus-sized | April 14, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Heres latest from Japan using next gen Atom Chip from Intel. Called MEDIA PHONE, put in effect programs started by Pentagon 5 years ago, for very wide wii coverage.

Reason tablet with phone only slightly larger, is that less chance of Brain Cancer & entire head & throat. While getting excellent visual.


Posted by: thomasxstewart1 | April 14, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Freedom of speech, whether on the broadband frequency waves , in words, or printed documents, has been comprimised by the current lobbyst run form of government we now have.

While our constitution guarantees us freedom, the congress passes amendments that nullify the constitution, Personally, I think we have reached a point when the selected lawyers who go to DC to get the cash the lobbyst give them for doing whatever they are told to do and paid for, in cash under the table, and in countless ways.

I don't see why the newsmedia doesn't hold a referendum/pole, asking the people if they want to disband the federal reserve board, supreme court, all forms of lobbying, super delegates, electoral college, resurrect the import taxation and reconstruct our manufacturing infrastructure, protecting the american people from slave countries, and retaining our important middleclass job structure.

Ask the american people if the height of information technology be injected into healthcare and the legal realm, to take away the human factor of corruption. Ask about no fault insurance, and real universal education and healthcare without lobbyst influence, and automate healthcare, education,

Bring us into the scientific realm we are capable of, which would eliminate a lotta nobility positions, currently propped up by law, title, deed, corrupt clout, and legal crime for the justice department officials

Posted by: jackcox | April 15, 2010 1:00 AM | Report abuse

I think Congress needs to set policy and the FCC should implement it, acting as a traffic cop. The FCC, in net neutrality and other matters such as saving the newspapers, is trying to act as an executive, judicial, and legislative branch under one roof and I think that is unconstitutional as a violation of separation of powers. I don't blame the FCC Chairman. This is kind of a big mess he inherited. He can't give you a definite answer because he does not know.

(Before the 1930s, you did not have all these administrative agencies such as the FDA, FTC, FCC (and its predecessor agencies) and hundreds others -- Congress ran things with direct accountability. It set up these agencies in part to avoid having to make hard decisions and take blame at election time.)

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | April 15, 2010 4:00 AM | Report abuse

Cecilia, my take is that there needs to be more explicit direction from Congress that the FCC has the authority to regulate broadband, either by regulations or a new law.

Posted by: query0 | April 15, 2010 4:40 AM | Report abuse

Well then gee, Bitter Bill, I guess the Bureau of Indian Affairs, created in 1824, didn't exist after all?

I guess the Interstate Commerce Commission, created by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, didn't exist after all?

I guess the U.S. Marshall's service, created in 1789, didn't exist after all?

Do you know that the origins of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) can be traced back to 1848 when a certain Lewis Caleb Beck who was appointed to the Patent Office to carry out chemical analyses of agricultural products to make sure they were safe for human and domesticated animal consumption? I guess because it was created prior to the 1930s, it didn't exist after all?

Do you know that the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) was created in 1914? I guess because it was created prior to the 1930s, it didn't exist after all?

Posted by: critter69 | April 15, 2010 6:34 AM | Report abuse

Yes! Somebody has to get a hold of Broadband.
People like to leave the blame on the government but Utilities and private companies in this country are just plain greedy! Give me taxes atlest i know what they are for but companies and there billing are just plain evil.

I don't care what anyone say the government should have been the one to issue out broadband in this country.

To all the nay sayers you must have STOCK!

Posted by: shamken | April 15, 2010 7:00 AM | Report abuse

They're common carriers. The rules apply. Just because they say they don't doesn't make it true.

Posted by: Nymous | April 15, 2010 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Broadband providers are already regulated BY THE STATES AND MUNICIPALITIES. Cripes, leave it alone already. What can the FCC add to the process? Decency standards? Indecency standards?

Posted by: Wallenstein | April 15, 2010 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Broadband needs to be regulated because it's too expensive and not flexible for consumers. Moreover, cable companies aren't just into tv and movies, they do telephone and internet service and since players like Comcast and Verizon are extending their own cable services to play over the internet (FIOS, Xfinity), they should abide by internet regulation. Otherwise don't extend into those industries. It's bad enough that consumer's choices were limited through tehe Federal switch to HD, but these monopolies in communications just need to stop. It's so un-American.

Posted by: lidiworks1 | April 15, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

This is a matter for Congress to deliberate and decide. The court has already ruled on the FCC's authority.

Posted by: millionea7 | April 15, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Cecilia, you are right to be confused. Indeed, the FCC and Genachowski are unsure themselves exactly what authority they have. Having lost in court on the ancillary authority issue, the only real option the FCC has is to assert that it has direct statutory authority to regulate broadband service providers. Of course, that is always the preferred option if you are the FCC, but it begs the question why that argument wasn't made in court in lieu of the ancillary argument. The answer is the FCC has no faith that it truly has the necessary authority to regulate broadband in a substantive way. It can try to reclassify broadband under Title II, but that effort will be challenged immediately and lead to a great deal of uncertainty in the marketplace (and could very well be struck down by an antagonistic D.C. Circuit court). The only real way to do it is to get new Congressional authority and then implement from there. A tough row to hoe, but so be it.

Posted by: wilsonce | April 15, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

The FCC definitely has the authority to regulate broadband. Chairman Genchowski and the current Commission was hurt by the short sited actions of previous FCC who wrongly decided Internet was a Title 1 service. They should have kept it under Title II where it began and used its forbearance authority to remove legacy rules that would have hampered Internet growth. Since the FCC declared it Title 1, it has the power to declare it Title II now.

Posted by: spudssmc | April 15, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

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