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Posted at 1:25 AM ET, 12/10/2010

At FCC chairman dinner, biggest buzz comes from the crowd

By Cecilia Kang

At an annual dinner honoring the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, special attention was paid to Julius Genachowski as he struggles to gain enough support to pass his controversial net neutrality proposal.

The FCC chairman made plenty of self-deprecating jokes about observations that he takes too long to make decisions and has amassed critics on all sides of the policy and political spectrum.

"Welcome to the latest in a series of secret meetings," Genachowski said to an audience of several hundred telecommunications bar association members. He was referring to unsuccessful closed-door negotiations in net neutrality between his chief of staff, Eddie Lazarus, and AT&T, Verizon, the cable trade group National Cable and Telecommunications Association and a coalition representing public interest groups and Web giants Google, Amazon and Facebook.

But true to form, Genachowski didn’t break news, and what was perhaps most interesting was commentary from observers and FCC officials about his chances at getting his proposal passed later this month.

Democratic allies Michael J. Copps and Mignon Clyburn have both said they are willing to compromise on components of the deal. But it is unclear if their calls for stronger rules on wireless broadband providers and protections against paid priority for faster Internet lanes will result in final regulation they can vote for.

Those comments come as cable and telecom carriers say they have worked for months with senior members of Genachowski’s team to come up with guidelines for new rules.

“My instinct is that this item will be adopted,” said Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, in a recent interview. “And as I have tried to make clear, while we support rough consensus we developed over negotiations over six months, I think we have to be careful of material changes.”

Those details at this point could include vague language that frowns on, but doesn’t prevent, the ability of partners to pay for priority of Internet delivery, according to two sources who have seen a draft of the proposal. It could also include rules that prevent wireless carriers from blocking competing voice and video calling applications on cell networks, but allows for tiered lanes.

“I don’t know what success would look like if there was success,” said one FCC official before the dinner.

Other telecom policy insiders at the Federal Communications Bar Association said there are questions about allowances for usage based pricing. A telecom lawyer said several clients are concerned that the FCC’s green light on billing based on data consumption could lead to higher charges for customers. If carriers such as Comcast and Verizon set low caps on usage, consumers could easily exceed those limits and be forced to pay more. That could prevent them from trying new forms of Internet video delivery.

One lobbyist noted how AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and their biggest outside law firms overwhelmingly bought the most tables at the event.

“It’s a metaphor for how the FCC is operating these days, with the armies surrounding it made up of the biggest incumbent carriers,” the lobbyist noted.

By Cecilia Kang  | December 10, 2010; 1:25 AM ET
Categories:  FCC, Net Neutrality  
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An alternative to Network Neutrality is to enable individual citizens of the United States to build their own alternative broadband network. This would be the Citizens’ National Broadband Network (CNBN).
The CNBN would be a large set of unlicensed communicating modules that grow into a nation-wide broadband network that would be an independent alternative to the broadband communications networks provided by the major telecommunications companies.
Each CNBN module would communicate with other modules using millimeter-wave radio waves (30 to 300 GHz). Most of these modules would be manufactured by commercial companies and sold to individual American citizens for use on their own property. The modules would be certified (approved) by the Commission for compliance with standards established for the CNBN.
Over time, the CNBN would grow in a viral manner spreading over the land area of the Nation. The Commission should explicitly allow the use of home-built modules of experimental design. This freedom would allow numerous citizens skilled in electronics and software to experiment with their own solutions to this type of networking. Indeed, the entire CNBN is a large experimental environment that would add new opportunities for technological invention and innovation and would increase the capability of our communications infrastructure.

Posted by: nleggett | December 10, 2010 9:08 AM | Report abuse

Cecilia Kang, Google's Reporter and Lobbyist at The Washington Post, neglects to mention that there were dozens of Google lobbyists in attendance - as many as, or more than, there were from any telecomm company. Of course, Google does "astroturf" lobbying, which means that their lobbyists register under the names of many different outfits, such as "Public Knowledge," "Free Press," "New America Foundation," and "Future of Music Coalition." But they all lobby, 100%, for monopolist Google's corporate agenda. As does Ms. Kang, who - you will note - did not mention this. When will The Post quit sullying its reputation and hire an unbiased reporter without blatant conflicts of interest (ads placed by Google appear on Ms. Kang's blog)?

Posted by: LBrettGlass | December 10, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Glass, the ads placed by Google are not apparent to me. I see ads that appear to be placed by the Post directly (with an offer to buy ads) but I don't see anything from Google.

Posted by: TheChileanPresidentIsMuchBetterRespondingToDisastersThanObama | December 11, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

The sources of the ads are not identified when you look at the page in your browser, but you can see them in the source code of the page. (Just select "View Source" in your browser.) Note the script named "google_side_box.js". There's also code to serve up Doubleclick ads (Doubleclick is owned by Google).

Ms. Kang should not be allowed to promote the corporate agenda of a company that places ads on the pages where her articles are displayed. Of course, if The Post were to dismiss her (as it should), there would likely be a job waiting for her at Google. She has served them well.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | December 11, 2010 9:56 PM | Report abuse

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