Google on FCC broadband authority: We're staying out of it
Google will stay on the sidelines as others debate how the Federal Communications Commission should ensure its ability to regulate broadband services.
In a blog post Monday, media counsel Rick Whitt explained that the search giant is more concerned about net-neutrality policies at the FCC than questions over the agency’s legal maneuvering to ensure its authority over broadband. That authority was cast into doubt after a federal appeals court sided with Comcast, saying the FCC overreached when it sanctioned the cable giant for net-neutrality violations.
“To us, this has never been about regulatory rigidity but about protecting consumers and keeping the Internet open for innovators,” Whitt said. “So while we’re not wed to any particular legal theory to justify the FCC’s jurisdiction, we do believe some minimal oversight over broadband networks is essential.”
Whitt said he believes that the FCC has “ample legal authority” and that Google “supports whatever jurisdictional fix is ‘most sustainable legally.’ ” Google submitted comments on net-neutrality rules, which it supports, Monday evening. AT&T, Verizon and wireless and cable broadband providers submitted their own comments warning against such rules.
AT&T criticized proponents of new net neutrality rules, who they say are making too much out of the issue.
"They've used fear masterfully to create the impression of a crisis, and hyperbole to manufacture a threat," wrote Jim Cicconi, AT&T's executive vice president of external affairs, in a blog post. "But when the time has come to put-up-or-shut-up, those same groups have failed to identify any existing problem they are trying to solve or indeed any specific conduct the government must act to correct."
Verizon said in a blog that it prefers greater "industry self-governance" and thinks FCC should approach problems on a case-by-case basis.
"While the Comcast decision highlighted issues about the scope and source of the FCC's authority, it also confirmed that the FCC does have ancillary jurisdiction under Title I and when it can tie its actions to a substantive provision of the Act," Tom Tauke, Verizon's executive vice president of public affairs and policy, wrote in a blog.
But public interest group urged the FCC to carry out its net neutrality rules proposed by Chairman Julius Genachowski. They point to a handful of examples of carriers blocking or slowing access to Web sites and applications. And they said the agency should act to prevent more from occuring.
"Who should be trusted with the future of the Internet, these companies that have repeatedly violated open Internet principles or consumers?" said Free Press' director of research, Derek Turner.
With that, Google ends questions about where the company stands on whether the agency should reclassify broadband services as a traditional common carrier, clearly under the FCC’s control. And the net-neutrality advocate doesn't appear to go as far as its coalition, the Open Internet Coalition, which has supported the idea of reclassifying broadband as a Title II common carrier service.
Skype, Facebook and Sony Electronics are among many corporate members of the OIC. Public interest groups have also pushed for that move, saying Chairman Julius Genachowski’s goal of creating a new regulation on net neutrality can’t move forward without reclassification.
Analysts said Google is treading a careful line, trying to get the FCC to follow through on net-neutrality rules but also trying not to empower the agency too greatly in a way that could broaden its scope.
The FCC's options boil down to possibly three, analysts said.
The first is to do nothing and continue to operate with “ancillary jurisdiction” over broadband services, which some attorneys believe will put the FCC’s net-neutrality push in jeopardy.
The second it to reclassify broadband services as a Title II common-carrier service, like phones, and forebear on all the rules that may not apply to broadband services.
The third is not to reclassify but to get commitments from carriers such as Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T to carry out certain objectives in the national broadband plan and potentially something that would allow the FCC to carry out its net-neutrality goals.
April 26, 2010; 10:36 PM ET
Categories: FCC , Google
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