FCC votes to seek comment on its new legal strategy
The Federal Communications Commission moved forward this morning with its latest attempt to regain some authority over the broadband industry.
In a 3 to 2 vote, the FCC has decided to seek public comment on a controversial legal strategy unveiled this spring that would let the agency impose new rules on Internet service providers. The agency, still reeling from an April court decision that undercut its authority over broadband, wants to get back on track with its ambitious plans to shape the future of this country's Internet usage and access.
"The FCC has an obligation to move forward with an open, constructive public comment process to ask hard questions, build a record, find a solution, and resolve the uncertainty that has been created," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.
The new legal path is this: Currently, broadband is defined as an information service, which means it doesn't face much FCC oversight. Genachowski's plan is to shift broadband into the same classification as telephone service, which would trigger more oversight by the agency.
The FCC says it would not subject Internet service providers to the full brunt of regulation that would come with the new classification, instead choosing a "third way" that would apply only some of the rules.
Opponents say the FCC is overstepping its bounds and should wait for Congress to weigh in and clarify the agency's power. FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, who voted against the proceeding today, said that the rules for telephone services aren't appropriate for Internet service providers.
"The commission is seeking to impose 19th-century-style regulations designed for monopolies on competitive, dynamic and complex 21st-century Internet technologies," McDowell said.
Meanwhile, there's an effort on Capitol Hill to define more clearly the FCC's authority. Genachowski said today he supports the effort by lawmakers to update telecommunications law.
“Let me take this opportunity today to say clearly: I fully support this Congressional effort," Genachowski said. "A limited update of the Communications Act could lock in an effective broadband framework to promote investment and innovation, foster competition, and empower consumers."
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