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GOP lawmakers tell Obama they don't like broadband reclassification

Republican lawmakers on Wednesday wrote a letter to President Obama, protesting a move by the Federal Communications Commission to assert its authority over broadband service providers.

House Republican leader John Boehner (Ohio) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said a proposal by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service “could hardly come at a worse time for our nation’s economy, which is already struggling against a steady flow of increased government spending and taxation from Washington.”

The lawmakers sent a copy of the letter (pdf) to Genachowski, who is not obligated to answer directly to Obama because the FCC is an independent agency. But the letter comes amid greater pressure by Republican lawmakers and broadband service providers to abandon Genachowski’s plan.

Yesterday, Rep. Cliff Stearns (D-Fla.) introduced a bill that would make it more difficult for the FCC to impose rules on broadband service providers.

Analysts said the issue could end up as a political one ahead of midterm elections this fall. Republicans have depicted the proposal by the FCC as over-regulatory. The lawmakers in their letter called it "a crusade to take over the Internet." But key Democratic lawmakers -- including the House and Senate Commerce Committee chairmen (Rep. Henry Waxman and Sen. John Rockefeller) --have thrown their weight behind Genachowski's proposal, which they said would ensure a watchdog over broadband providers. They add that reclassification would enable the FCC to expand high-speed Internet connections across the nation.

Genachowski said last week that his plan would cover broadband service providers and not Internet applications or content companies such as eBay or Amazon.

In their letter, Boehner and Cantor said the FCC should seek additional authority from Congress after a federal court last month put the agency’s ability to regulate broadband services in doubt. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said the FCC in 2008 overstepped its authority when it sanctioned Comcast for blocking a peer-to-peer application. That decision threw into question whether the FCC could continue with its net neutrality proposal and portions of its national broadband plan.

But the lawmakers said the proposal to reclassify broadband under the FCC risked putting more rules on broadband providers.

“To help expedite our recovery and create jobs, we urged you to refocus the Commission on promoting broadband investment and deployment,” they wrote.

AT&T, Verizon and Comcast -- the biggest broadband service providers -- have criticized Genachowski's proposal. And free-market groups like Americans for Prosperity have launched a more than $1 million marketing campaign to fight against the move.

Companies such as Google, Skype and Amazon support reclassification. They and public interest groups have pushed for net neutrality rules that they say would prohibit broadband providers from unfairly picking what services get priority over their networks or special rates that could unfairly disadvantage competitors.

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By Cecilia Kang  |  May 12, 2010; 3:31 PM ET
 | Tags: Network neutrality  
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Comments

When these jokers talk about protecting our economy, they mean protecting the established interests that are damaging our economy by bleeding customers for deficient service. There's a reason we're behind Korea in broadband, and it's both these ISPs and the whole business model.

The physical connection to your home should be treated like a common carrier, separate from the provision of services, so competition can force down price and promote innovation. As it is, broadband is effectively a monopoly. We need to bust that up.

Posted by: j3hess | May 12, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

I genuinely just do not understand the GOP mindset right now. They flippantly turn anything they want into an argument about the economy, for which they are more than partly responsible. How, exactly, does making broadband companies accountable for the services they provide harm the economy and job creation? Can anyone explain this?

I have a real, growing fear that the mid-term elections are going to be very bad for the Dems, and that is going to be very bad for all of us. The GOP has shown time and time again that they are in the pocket of big business. They have worked harder than almost any political figures in history since the Magna Carta to limit the actual rights of individuals when it comes to getting what you've paid for; ensuring that you can support yourself, and are not being taken advantage of at every turn when dealing with businesses. I just truly do not understand how they can even keep a political base within the common people when everything they represent is detrimental to the middle class.

Don't be suprised when the mid-term elections come, and be prepared to reap what is going to be sewn.

Posted by: CSp1 | May 12, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

The GOP is protecting its donor base as usual.

Posted by: sarahabc | May 12, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

"net neutrality rules that ... would prohibit broadband providers from unfairly picking what services get priority over their networks or special rates that could unfairly disadvantage competitors."

It's important so that wealthy whackos like Murdock and Reverend Moon can own the next generation of 'newspapers' and 'networks' and control what the public sees over the public internet.

Republicans are shameless tools of the Corporations.

Posted by: thebobbob | May 12, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

...and Cecilia Kang is protecting HER donor base. Note that she gives Google -- a large, monopolistic corporation with far more dominance over the Internet than Verizon or AT&T has over telecom -- the last word.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | May 12, 2010 11:18 PM | Report abuse

I get along fine with dial-up.

Posted by: n7uno | May 13, 2010 12:12 AM | Report abuse

"They add that reclassification would enable the FCC to expand high-speed Internet connections across the nation."

It is not the FCC's job to do any such thing. The telephone companies expanded service to rural areas through financial incentives, true, but this was a very expensive venture. Expanding data service to sparsely populated areas is similarly expensive and undesirable to a profit-making business. But it is still up to the businesses to expand broadband service, not the FCC. Let's get that clear.

The modern-day FCC is a cabal of lawyers whose singular purpose is to increase the revenue stream into government coffers. Technical excellence is no longer in their creed.

The FCC commissioners themselves have run rough-shod over their own regulations and common sense, for example, by allowing Nextel essentially to kick fire and police radio systems around at great expense and inconvenience. Search for the terms "rebanding" and "Bearing Point" for details. Their stewardship of our natural communications resources is questionable at best.

The FCC is not your friend.

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