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FCC chair mum about broadband classification

If you're hoping that Wednesday, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission will put an end to speculation on whether the agency will reclassify broadband services to make them more clearly under its authority, you're gonna be disappointed.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski will instead tell a Senate committee that the agency plans to push forward on its national broadband plan -- all six dozen or so proposals -- even as a court decision last week appeared to put into question the legal stability of the agency's jurisdiction over broadband services. And unless a Commerce Committee member gets it out of him, Genachowski doesn't plan to announce whether the agency will move to place broadband out from under Title I, where is has ancillary authority, to a category for phone services.

"He isn't going to announce a resolution to the technical, legal issue but will emphasize that the broadband policy agenda remains unchanged," an FCC official said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject, the official said members of the agency are still figuring out the best course of action after losing a federal appeals case brought against the agency by Comcast.

The official said the agency believes it has authority over broadband services today -- without changing a thing -- or under Title II, which it could decide to use as a framework through reclassification.

Members of the chairman's office have been in consultation with industry representatives and public interest groups on whether the agency should choose either framework -- Title I or Title II -- as it pursues other broadband policy goals such as net neutrality.

Here's an exerpt from Genachowski's written testimony for the Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.

Notwithstanding the decision last week in the Comcast case, I am confident that the Commission has the authority it needs to implement the broadband plan. Whatever flaws may have existed in the specific actions and reasoning before the court in that case, I believe that the Communications Act – as amended in 1996 – enables the Commission to, for example, reform universal service to connect everyone to broadband communications, including in rural areas and Native American communities; help connect schools and rural health clinics to broadband; take steps to ensure that we lead the world in mobile; promote competition; support robust use of broadband by small businesses to drive productivity, growth, job creation and ongoing 4 innovation; protect and empower all consumers of broadband communications, including thorough transparency and disclosure to help make the market work; safeguard consumer privacy; work to increase broadband adoption in all communities and ensure fair access for people with disabilities; help protect broadband communications networks against cyber attack and other disasters; and ensure that all broadband users can reach 911 in an emergency. I believe it is vitally important that the Commission act on the broadband plan’s roadmap to protect America’s global competitiveness and help deliver the extraordinary benefits of broadband to all Americans. I believe this essential mission is completely consistent with the Communications Act, and I can assure the Committee that our actions will be rooted in a sound legal foundation, designed to promote investment, innovation, competition, and consumer interests.


Free Press and companies such as Skype have urged the FCC to reclassify. AT&T, the cable industry and Verizon have warned against such a move.

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By Cecilia Kang  |  April 13, 2010; 7:30 PM ET
 | Tags: FCC, Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski, Network neutrality  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Battle over reclassification intensifies: AT&T against; Google and Skype for
Next: AT&T's Quinn on what Title II looks like, in volumes:

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