Republican House members protest FCC broadband proposal in force
Nearly every Republican member of the House signed a letter to the Federal Communications Commission protesting a plan to redefine broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service. The FCC plans to start reviewing that plan at its June 17 meeting.
The letter (pdfbarton.pdf), sent to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on Friday, urged the agency to instead to leave it up to Congress to deal with the agency’s quagmire over its authority to regulate broadband service providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications.
“The FCC concluded on a number of occasions, under both Democrat- and Republican-led commissions, that broadband is not a telecommunications service but an information service outside the reach fo the Title II common carrier rules,” the lawmakers wrote. Reps. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), ranking member of the commerce committee, and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), ranking member of the communications subcommittee, were the lead signatures on the letter.
“We write to encourage you not to proceed down your announced path to reclassify broadband service as a phone service,” they wrote. “Such a significant interpretive change to the Communcations Act should be made by Congress.”
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) on Thursday sent a letter to FCC, expressing concern that the plan to reclassify broadband would be overturned by courts. His letter followed by a similar letter by 74 Democratic House members.
But key Democratic Congressional leaders have also offered their support of FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s plan. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said they would support Genachowski’s plan and provide Congressional support. Separately those leading Democratic lawmakers said beginning in June, they would proceed to update the Communications Act to clear up confusion of how the federal government oversees the Internet.
Internet service providers have criticized the proposal. Internet content firms such as Google and Skype, meanwhile, support the plan -- which would help usher in new net neutrality rules that would benefit them.
“We welcome this bi-partisan Congressional effort from 285 Democratic and Republican Members of Congress cautioning against the FCC’s proposal to subject broadband services to onerous Title II regulations," said AT&T executive vice president of federal relations Tim McKone. "We look forward to working with the Congress to provide the FCC with more narrow and targeted authority to protect the open Internet in a way that will not pose risk to jobs and needed investment.”
Analyst Rebecca Arbogast of Stifel Nicholas said in a note that increased pressure by lawmakers is expected but probably won't derail Genachowski's effort.
"We believe the FCC will continue on this course unless some external factor -- the White House or Congress -- intervenes and/or there is a path to a settlement that would provide the agency the authority it needs to pursue those parts of the national broadband plan facing legal uncertainty," she wrote in a research note Friday.
May 28, 2010; 1:40 PM ET
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