FCC Chair Offers Latest Plan To Protect Broadband Internet Access

December 1, 2010

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski put Open Internet access on the December agenda and offered his latest proposal to fellow Commissioners Wednesday. The plan, after much negotiations with major carriers, is not as strong as Genachowski’s earlier one. His “Third Way” plan would have narrowly reclassified the broadband transmission component as a telecommunications service. The new plan relies on a less certain legal framework for the FCC to protect the quality of consumers’ Internet access.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association applauds the FCC chairman for moving this important initiative along. CCIA had supported Genachowski’s original Open Internet plan because it treated broadband Internet access as telecommunications – without regulating the Internet itself.

The following comments can be attributed to Ed Black, CCIA President and CEO.

“The FCC has developed a comprehensive official record in this proceeding over the past year with an unprecedented level of public input, that clearly supports adoption of its open Internet rule as originally proposed. That proposed rule also appeared to fulfill the campaign and subsequent promises by candidate and President Obama. But the rule being circulated today has been drastically watered down from the principled original, and is replete with loopholes and exceptions that will weaken and perhaps nullify its public interest protections.

“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 home front too so that no government and no dominant company controls access to information on the Internet.

“If the FCC doesn’t take effective steps to keep access to the Internet content neutral, the dominant phone and cable companies will have the power and latitude to control bandwidth and prioritize content and users according to their whims and parochial interests. This would be a far more insidious form of “regulation” than anything the FCC has previously proposed.”

The following comments can be attributed to CCIA Vice President Cathy Sloan:

“CCIA applauds the Chairman for moving forward on the Open Internet proceeding, and recognizing that no central authority, public or private should act as a gatekeeper to the Internet.”

“We are disappointed however that the Chairman has chosen to put on ice and freeze for the winter his enlightened and well crafted Third Way approach to broadband Internet access telecommunications under Title II. Without it, American households, students, small businesses and non-profits will have to settle for an already discredited legal framework to protect the quality of their Internet access.

“Its unclear whether the Chairman has had a change of heart and now disagrees with his agency’s original proposals. Perhaps a close reading of the draft order will clarify this, but it seems inconceivable to us that broadband Internet access connections are not telecommunications services.”

“Though well intentioned, we are very wary of the FCC simply rearranging deck chairs on the Title I Titanic. At best, new contortions of Title I for broadband will be very resource intensive and ultra high maintenance for the FCC, consumer groups and private stakeholders alike.

“This very modest construct also appears woefully insufficient to prevent the consumer economic harms and access denials looming from the Comcast/NBC marriage of big video content and duopoly distribution conduit. Additional safeguards clearly will be necessary in that case and in the many other similar mergers likely to follow.”

CCIA has filed comments in response to the FCC’s request for comments on proposed Open Internet rules. CCIA pointed out the FCC does and should have authority to make rules on broadband access for households, students and small businesses and nonprofits under its Title II telecommunications authority. Click here to see the full comments and also here and here.


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