FCC Changes Terms in Net Neutrality Debate
The FCC now proposes changing the legal definition of broadband ISPs. In this new twist to the net-neutrality debate, the Commission's draft offers a "third way" or middle-ground approach. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers hope for a letup of the legal logjam.
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'Mother' Maggie Shiels reports from Jolly Farm:
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski ... [has] unveiled plans to change the way broadband services are overseen. ... This so-called "third way" will ... require [ISPs] to treat all net traffic equally.
Under present rules the FCC has ... [only] "ancillary" authority over broadband providers ... which means that they are lightly regulated. ... The FCC has taken a ... softly-softly approach. ... It will not regulate rates ... internet content, services, applications or electronic commerce sites. ... [It] hopes its new approach will satisfy the ... critics as well as assuage the concerns of advocacy groups and supporters of net neutrality. More . . .
As Amy Schatz explains, it "gets a bit wonky":
Genachowski's ... and FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick's ... proposal calls for reclassifying broadband Internet lines under Title 2 of the Communications Act. ... However, ... they'll only apply six sections of rules under Title 2 to Internet networks and basically ignore the rest. ... To make sure that the data gets from the Internet to your computer without interference from the carrier.
The [FCC] says it doesn't want to impose rate regulation and doesn't intend to compel incumbent broadband providers to share their networks with rivals. ... Telecommunications providers and industry analysts are questioning whether the FCC's approach keeps the door open for rate regulation in the future. More . . .
Rob Pegoraro also mentions wonkyness:
This is a tactic that telecom wonks call "Title II reclassification," referring to the part of the Communications Act of 1934. ... Under Genachowski's proposal, the FCC would ... exempt, or "forbear," those [rules] irrelevant to Internet access.
[The] proposal would also allow the FCC to continue with its plans to promote universal access to broadband Internet. ... To me it ... seems the most straightforward way out of the box in which the ... [court] ruling had left the FCC. More . . .
Public Knowledge president Gigi B. Sohn is "generally pleased":
We have said for months that the right path for the [FCC] to take would be to examine all the possibilities ... and guarantee the expansion of broadband. ... We are glad it is ... on the table.
Having said that, we were not pleased to read that ... [it] is foreclosing the possibility of requiring line sharing. ... [This] is a crucial method to ... providing more choices for consumers. More . . .
And Comcast's Sena Fitzmaurice is cautiously optimistic:
While we are disappointed with the inclination not to lean in favor of Title I regulation, we are prepared to work constructively. ... We continue to believe that the existing classification of broadband as an information service gives the Commission sufficient authority. ... We are concerned about the investment and innovation risks of a Title II approach.
We ... appreciate the Chairman's desire to take extremes off the table and to try to ... provide ISPs and others ... with clear rules of the road ... while avoiding the elements of Title II that are destructive to our business. More . . .
Meanwhile, color Sam Diaz impressed:
The blanket approach of classifying broadband as a whole as a telecommunications service ... would have sent us back to a legal battlefield and slowed the momentum of developing a national plan for broadband.
[It's] a compromise that's not intended to favor one group over another. It sounds like the mission was to ... determine what role the government should have in regulating access to broadband, not content or anything else.
Finally, a common sense approach out of Washington. More . . .
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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can follow him as @richi on Twitter, pretend to be richij's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: email@example.com. You can also read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.