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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.

By Cecilia Kang  |  May 11, 2010; 12:04 PM ET
 
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Comments

http://www.digitalsociety.org/2010/05/clyburn-accuses-isps-of-arguing-in-favor-of-reclassification/
FCC Commissioner Clyburn has accused AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon of misleading statements suggesting that the DC Circuit Comcast ruling stripped the FCC of its Title I ancillary authority. The only problem is that it was Free Press and the Open Internet Coalition that made those misleading claims.

Posted by: GeorgeOu | May 12, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

George, above, is absolutely correct. The alarmism of the Google lobbyists (the "Open Internet Coalition" is a front group for Google) in the wake of the ruling -- falsely claiming that the FCC had been "stripped" of all of its authority when in fact it was simply told that it never had the authority to do certain things -- was intended to motivate the Commission into taking rash action. And it worked; the FCC is now desperately attempting the illegal and unconstitutional "reclassification" of broadband Internet service.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | May 12, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I am frustrated in the FCC’s attempt to regulate aspects of Internet access services without explicitly ensuring that small, minority, and women owned businesses will be a high priority. The Commission’s record on achieving inclusion in Title II regulated services is bleak and the Commission’s lack of foresight in considering Title II-lite regulations without simultaneously accounting for market entry barriers is disturbing.

Posted by: k377 | May 14, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately in the need to drive home the questionable point that broadband providers are spreading misinformation, Commissioner Clyburn appears to be leaving out very relevant information.

The court in Comcast v. FCC made it very clear that the FCC had no jurisdiction over Comcast to tell it how to manage its network. The ancillary authority that Commissioner Clyburn is referring to is, according to the court, “incidental to and contingent upon specifically delegated powers under the Act.“ In short, the FCC can’t regulate broadband until Congress says it can.

As long as Congress sees the Internet growing in a competitive eco-system, the last thing the FCC should be doing is trying to promote a policy for which it has no statutory authority.

Posted by: altondrew | May 14, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

t hardly seems feasible that the FCC would so adamantly seek to re-classify broadband service as a telecommunications service and follow that by forbearing 88% of the applicable regulation. Commissioner Clyburn’s statements rather sound like smoke and mirrors in my opinion, and oddly enough, this comes in the wake of categorizing the opponents of net neutrality as failing to be “open and honest.”

What’s further is her reference to the ancillary authority the FCC has over broadband carriers, despite a recent court decision that explicitly states otherwise. She then accuses Comcast of dishonestly recounting the facts of this case – how this is relevant to pushing the FCC agenda escapes me.

It seems that enough people are beginning to realize that net neutrality’s platform is shaky at best. Perhaps Commissioner Clyburn’s scattered comments suggest a slippage in the grip of net neutrality proponents. Are we now seeing them reaching for anything?

Posted by: sonnywhite906 | May 14, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn seems to be caught in the middle of a regulatory battle on broadband issues. It's becoming difficult to distinguish whether comments made by big business, the FCC and Congress are disingenuous or real. Who's really leading the argument in any case on this issue?

There's no question that the D.C. Circuit Court's decision in favor of Comcast is putting a big damper on the issue of net neutrality, and it seems to be unclear whether the FCC has lost its ancillary authority over broadband services. Obviously, Congress will now have a lot to say on this issue--it's clearly becoming a much debated and complicated argument as decisions on these policies are moving into the hands of legislators.

It would be wonderful if the FCC--the agency that oversees telecom policies that affect citizens--would be a neutral player in this discourse and actually exercise the authority to create policies and regulations that truly have the interests of the American public at heart.

Posted by: evelyn10 | May 14, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn seems to be caught in the middle of a regulatory battle on broadband issues. It’s becoming difficult to distinguish whether comments made by big business, the FCC and Congress are disingenuous or real. Who’s really leading the argument in any case on this issue?

There’s no question that the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision in favor of Comcast is putting a big damper on the issue of net neutrality, and it seems to be unclear whether the FCC has lost its ancillary authority over broadband services. Obviously, Congress will now have a lot to say on this issue—it’s clearly becoming a much debated and complicated argument as decisions on these policies are moving into the hands of legislators.

It would be wonderful if the FCC—the agency that oversees telecom polices that affect citizens—would be a neutral player in this discourse and actually exercise the authority to create policies and regulations that truly have the interests of the American public at heart.

Posted by: evelyn10 | May 14, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

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