FCC's Clyburn criticizes corporations for misinformation on broadband reclassification
Federal Communications Commission member Mignon Clyburn in a speech Tuesday, criticized corporate lobbyists for spreading what she described as misinformation about a proposal to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service.
In a speech at a conference by public interest group Free Press, Clyburn told the audience that the “powerful interests” have been spreading false messages. Clyburn, a Democratic member of the FCC, is in favor of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s re-regulation proposal.
“An unfortunate reality is that having an open forum with reasonable and honest debate in this sphere appears unlikely,” Clyburn said. “Instead, the lobbying machine for some extremely powerful interests has already been churning out quote-worthy lines at a rapid rate.”
Specifically she said those interests have incorrectly said a federal court decision left the agency with no power to regulate the providers of Web access, such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. The FCC still has ancillary authority over broadband services but is attempting to move those services under a different category that it clearly oversees.
Clyburn also tried to reassure the conference attendees that the agency wasn’t intent on applying all the burdensome rules to broadband providers that also apply to phone services. The FCC has said it would move to exempt broadband providers from 42 of the 48 rules for telecommunications services.
Some analysts, however, have said investors worry that the FCC won’t be able to forbear on all those rules. Or that it may reverse those exemptions down the line, which could lead to price regulation or a rule that would force broadband providers to share their lines with competitors.
Clyburn said finally that the move isn’t an attempt to regulate the Internet – which would include content creators like Amazon, the New York Times and Facebook. The move would apply only to the network service providers that transmit traffic over the Web, she said.
The South Carolina transplant also encouraged public hearings over proposed merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, which is under review by the FCC.
“We do have the ability to hold one or more hearings in places where consumers will be directly affected – either positively or negatively – by this landmark transaction,” Clyburn said.
May 11, 2010; 12:04 PM ET
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