Internet users and the tech industry
are responding to news reports that the Obama administration may be
weakening in its resolve to protect the neutrality of Internet access
for households and small businesses. News reports indicate FCC Chairman
Julius Genachowski may decide not to treat broadband as telecom
services, which are clearly subject to FCC jurisdiction.
Some say the FCC needs to take action to clarify their jurisdiction
after a recent appeals court ruling that overturned the way the FCC
tried to enforce net neutrality rules. Because the Comcast case
invalidated the Bush administration’s theory of FCC authority over
Internet Access Providers, the Commission must rely on authority found
in the telecommunications act to preserve open Internet access for all
The Computer & Communications Industry Association filed
with the FCC last week in response to the Commission’s
request for comments on its net neutrality rules. CCIA pointed out the
FCC does and should have authority to make rules on broadband access for
households, students and small businesses under its Title II
The court ruling showed the failure of the previous Commission to
maintain enforceable, basic rights to nondiscriminatory Internet access.
But in the same breath the court didn't disapprove of what the FCC was
trying to do -- preserve nondiscriminatory Internet access.
As senator Obama promised several pro consumer and pro technology
positions during his campaign. Failure to invoke fundamental
jurisdiction to implement those promises would be a serious retreat from
what was thought to be his core commitment to positive change and
economic growth through technology empowerment. Real change does not
mean further entrenching dominant power.
Internet users need nondiscriminatory access to websites and the FCC is
tasked with being the public interest watchdog, looking out for
household and small business broadband Internet connection rights. We
hope Obama administration officials are able to withstand the overly
intense corporate political pressure and uphold their duty to protect
the public interest in the open Internet.
U.S. diplomats are fighting overseas to ensure citizens in countries
like China and Iran have open Internet access. They know all too well
the cost of information suppression and we would do well to fight that
battle on the homefront too so that no government and no commercial
access provider controls access to information on the Internet. Given
the recent court ruling that has put a big hole in the previous FCC’s
‘safety net’ that needs to be fixed immediately and cannot await a
multi-year legislative process in Congress.
by Ed Black,
President & CEO, CCIA