FCC delays December meeting, perhaps signaling net neutrality vote
The Federal Communications Commission said Tuesday that it has postponed its December meeting by about one week to Dec. 21, sparking a flurry of speculation that the agency did so to prepare for a vote on net neutrality.
“An extra week will help us evaluate potential agenda items for December,” said Jen Howard, a spokeswoman for the FCC.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is expected to introduce a proposal that would be under its questionable legal jurisdiction over broadband service providers, according to Stifel Nicholaus analyst Rebecca Arbogast. And the chairman is in the difficult position of now having to convince two Democratic commissioners who have pushed him to reassert authority over broadband services so he can implement rules against discrimination of content on Internet networks.
Analysts said the delay was probably created so Genachowski could garner support for a majority 3 to 2 vote on a final rule.
"We suspect the Democrats could ultimately support a Title I order, but they may seek some sort of concessions on this or other matters," Arbogast wrote in a research note Tuesday.
That legal standing had been questioned by a federal appeals court last spring that said the FCC was overstepping its authority in sanctioning Comcast for violating broadband open-access guidelines. To pursue a regulation on how network providers can manage traffic under its current authority would probably be challenged in court, observers said.
Telecom and cable industry observers say the agency has been consulting with companies and public-interest groups about a final net neutrality proposal, according to sources familiar with conversations with top FCC staff.
The proposal is expected to focus on wireline broadband services, preventing cable and telecom companies from blocking Web sites and applications on their networks. And analysts expect that the rule would allow broadband service providers to charge Web sites and applications for faster downloads.
Rules would probably be lighter on wireless network operators, who would be prevented from outright blocking of competitors’ voice services, such as Skype. But there may be significant room for paid priority of certain services.
"Of concern for the Bells in particular, the chairman could seek to strengthen wireless net neutrality duties, but we believe the Bells have significant leverage to push back against such provisions, given the FCC desire for industry backing or at least acceptance," Arbogast wrote in a note. "Such support could be especially critical in light of House Republican threats that a net neutrality order would produce a backlash."
| November 23, 2010; 4:34 PM ET
Categories: FCC, Net Neutrality
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