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Posted at 12:48 PM ET, 02/16/2011

FCC defends net neutrality to lawmakers, says Level 3-Comcast not covered by rules

By Cecilia Kang

update: 9:40 p.m. with comment from Level 3

Facing pressure from Republican lawmakers who want to take away funding, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and his Democratic colleagues Wednesday defended their controversial December Internet access rule known as net neutrality.

In a hearing before the House Communications and Internet subcommittee, Genachowski stood by his first-time Internet rules and said a dispute between content delivery service Level 3 and Comcast over traffic delivery charges may not fall under the new rules.

The net neutrality order "doesn’t change anything to existing peering arrangements," Genachowski said in the hearing. He added that he "hopes those parties settle and resolve it."

The statement comes amid a growing debate over whether it is fair for network operators to make companies such as Level 3 -- whose clients (including Netflix) depend on Comcast and other ISPs to reach users -- pay more to deliver more traffic to consumers.

Comcast has said the issue is a business dispute, not about fair network practices. With growing concern that the practices could fall under net neutrality rules, AT&T and cable trade group the National Cable and Telecommunications Association on Monday asked the FCC to clarify its position on the issue. Verizon Communications, which has sued the FCC to overturn net neutrality regulation, said it sought legal action because it saw peering debates as another sign of more regulation from the FCC.

Level 3, in a statement late Wednesday, disputed interpretations that the FCC's net neutrality rules don't apply to its charges against Comcast. The content delivery provider said its disagreement with Comcast isn't about peering.

"It would be inaccurate to take Chairman Genachowski’s statement that the open Internet order is unrelated to peering agreements and turn it into an implication by Chairman Genachowski that the open Internet order does not relate to the Comcast/Level 3 dispute," said Robert Yates, senior vice president of Level 3. "In fact, Chairman Genachowski took great pains to avoid such an implication, correctly stating that the Comcast/Level 3 dispute is not yet before the FCC and that the FCC has gathered no facts about it."

Yates said the company is considering a formal complaint against Comcast.

The House hearing was called by new Republican leadership in the House, which has conducted several hearings on regulations for health care, energy and education that the party believes are overbearing.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) warned that the FCC's net neutrality rule would only lead to more regulation.

"If left unchallenged, this claim of authority would allow the FCC to regulate any matter it discussed in the national broadband plan," Walden said. "Recall that the FCC concluded that consumers’ concerns over privacy are deterring broadband. Does that mean the FCC can regulate Internet privacy?"

But Democratic lawmakers and commissioners stood by the rules, saying future Internet growth and jobs from that sector rely on rules that ensure companies such as Comcast and AT&T don't block or arbitrarily slow down traffic on their networks.

"The paradox of competition is that it takes regulation in order to create deregulation," said Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass), referring to policies that create competition in the broadband market. "That is what has happened over the last 30 years."

Republican commissioners opposed the net neutrality rule in a 3 to 2 vote. They were supported by Republican lawmakers who called the hearing to examine whether the rules would harm network operators such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast and lead to job losses.

By Cecilia Kang  | February 16, 2011; 12:48 PM ET
Categories:  FCC, Net Neutrality  
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What a bunch of bullshit. Republican leaders who don't know what they're talking about are applying their blanket opposition to regulation to the FCC net neutrality laws. They were set in place to encourage free market without major companies unfairly dominating. If they researched it, Republican lawmakers would see that the regulations support the entrepreneurship of Americans, the very entrepreneurship that creates jobs. But because they're lazy (and possibly incompetent), they are stamping these FCC regulations as the "government oversight" they and their constituents fear, and tagging it with "job-killing" so that they can get support.

Posted by: ABurstofLogic | February 17, 2011 2:36 AM | Report abuse

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