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FCC chair describes overhaul as middle ground

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday described his push to regulate broadband service providers as a middle ground between two difficult choices, each of which is made possible by a court decision that weakened the agency's ability to oversee companies that provide access to the Web. But critics took issue with his depiction, calling the move a strong push to impose rules on broadband providers.

Chairman Julius Genachowski is proposing to define broadband as a telecommunications service and strip Internet access providers of all but six rules that apply to plain old phones.

"I directed the FCC general counsel and staff to identify an approach that would restore the status quo -- that would allow the agency to move forward with broadband initiatives that empower consumers and enhance economic growth, while also avoiding regulatory overreach," Genachowski said in a statement. "In short, I sought an approach consistent with the longstanding consensus regarding the limited but essential role that government should play with respect to broadband communications."

The companies most affected -- AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and other ISPs -- won't be happy with the move, which will strap them with more rules despite Genachowski's assurances for a light regulatory touch, analysts say. That will ignite what is expected to be an intense lobbying effort -- and possible legal challenges -- against the move.

The two Republican commissioners, Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker, disagreed with Genachowski's portrayal of his proposal. They said it is over-regulatory and would hamper the businesses of Internet service providers.

"This proposal is disappointing and deeply concerns us," McDowell and Baker said in a statement. "It is neither a light-touch approach, nor a third way."

Comcast said it also wanted the agency to retain its current regulatory framework but said it would cooperate with the chairman on his proposal.

"We continue to believe the existing classification of broadband as an information service gives the commission sufficient authority to implement both key goals of the national broadband plan and reasonable rules to preserve an open Internet," said Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice, in a statement.

Genachowski's plan resembles that proposed by Internet content companies such as Google and Skype, who have argued that reclassifying broadband to a new category more clearly under the FCC's authority could be done by applying only a few of the rules that apply to phones.

"We believe the FCC's attempt to reclassify broadband will create a prolonged period of regulatory uncertainty and invite protracted litigation in a way that could complicate various high-priority policy initiatives," said Jeffrey Silva, a senior policy director at Medley Global Advisors.

General Counsel Austin Schlick will announce details of the proposal later this morning.

By Cecilia Kang  |  May 6, 2010; 11:45 AM ET
 
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Comments

Baloney! This has nothing to do with "A the FCC's ability to oversee companies that provide access to the Web" and everything with Government's lust to control freedom of thought, of late everything government does is to regulate! It is part of their nature to control and metastasis. Is the net restricted now, has it ever really been? Get government in there as the Net Traffic cop and you'll have a little "we know what's good for you" PRC type thought. No thanks big brother, I saw the movie 1984 already and I don't need a real life rerun, the net of today is the every bit the equivalent of the invention of mechanical movable type printing that started the Printing Revolution and opened the door to the free exchange of thought and ideas. Today the FCC has made an attempt to seize regulatory control of the Internet.

I urge all of our representatives to do everything necessary to stop this FCC power grab, including co-sponsoring S. 1836 to prohibit the FCC from regulating the Internet.

Posted by: Zerohour | May 6, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

@Zerohour - Spoken like someone who hasn't experienced connection throttling by Comcast since the court ruling. Just because a file is big and downloaded via a P2P protocol does not mean it is being downloaded illegally, and I've paid for my service just like everyone else. Comcast should not have the right to decide that my activity needs to be hindered, and who else can prevent them doing this but the FCC?

Posted by: CyricPL | May 6, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Comcast appears to have started to slow connections down again after the latest court ruling. So sad. I guess this is ok with you Zerohour? @zerohour - if all you can do is use a movie as your reference, your argument is mute.
The whole point of net neutrality is to stop isp's from becoming the regulators of the web. They want to control what you watch as long as it's in their best interest.

Posted by: Ra1n | May 6, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse


Ra1n, "They" want to control what you watch as long as it's in their best interest? What, you've got to be kidding me, you think the Feds will not do that and much more?" I can always change the ISP but I cant trust or reject a Government over lord of the whole net. The market place of competition will evolve these problems just like Foxfire give a better internet interface than Explorer. And CyricPL, who else can prevent them doing this but the FCC? You actually trust the Government to be impartial and fair? I would rather beat the restraining ISP over the head with negative blogs and bad reviews. Government oversight of the greatest thing since the invention of Gutenberg's press is a bad, bad, bad idea! stop this FCC power grab, including co-sponsoring S. 1836 to prohibit the FCC from regulating the Internet.

Posted by: Zerohour | May 6, 2010 9:30 PM | Report abuse

It's not a "third way." It's a "third rail."

Posted by: LBrettGlass | May 6, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse

"I saw the movie 1984"

You betcha!

Posted by: CJTDC | May 7, 2010 12:10 PM | Report abuse


Enjoy your Kool-Aid CJTDC, drink deep!

Posted by: Zerohour | May 7, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Without government oversight the internet will become just like the cable and brodcast and printed "news". Everything that is good for the corporation and nothing else.

The U.S. dearly needs the information available on the internet to continue to be NOT controlled by big money for their exclusive advantage.

I would go farther and require all news outlets to tell the truth, with stiff penalties for deliberate lying or misleading for monetary or political advantage.

Many of our collective problems are the result of corporations unregulated profiteering since the deregulation generated by the supply side scam.

Posted by: rpmamuck | May 10, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

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