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FCC Still Weighing Broadband Plan
|02 сентября 2010|
Federal Communications Commission officials said Chairman Julius Genachowski is still considering a proposal to re-regulate broadband access under more-stringent rules designed for phone services, and asked for more comment on rules to ensure equal treatment of Internet traffic.FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, shown in July, is still considering regulating broadband like phone services.
The officials' remarks Wednesday came in response to speculation that the agency had abandoned an effort to classify broadband networks as common carriers under Title 2 of the Communications Act, in the face of telecommunications-industry opposition.
A senior FCC official said in an email Wednesday that Mr. Genachowski had "absolutely not" abandoned the approach. "All options remain on the table," the official added.
The agency also asked for public comment Wednesday on issues that have held up negotiations on whether the government should seek to bar Internet providers from favoring some forms of Web traffic over others. This "net neutrality" issue is a central question affecting the proposal to regulate Internet service under Title 2 rules.
In a note Wednesday morning, a Credit Suisse analyst suggested that Mr. Genachowski had "abandoned his efforts to reclassify broadband service under Title 2," which would be a significant victory for large phone and cable companies who have lobbied against such a change.
"The FCC staff is busy reviewing and analyzing an extensive record of more than 50,000 comments in the broadband framework proceeding, which only closed a few weeks ago. Securing a solid legal foundation for broadband policy is too important an issue to rush," the FCC official said.
A decision to re-regulate broadband networks under Title 2 would give the government more sway over how Internet providers run their networks. Phone and cable companies say that would damp new investments and create uncertainty as legal challenges to the changes worked through the courts.
While Mr. Genachowski and his aides may not have abandoned their broadband re-regulation proposal, they have explored alternatives to it all summer.
The FCC's chief of staff has held a series of closed-door meetings with industry lobbyists in an effort to reach a legislative compromise on the related issue of "net neutrality," or the idea that Internet providers can't deliberately block or slow legal Internet traffic, no matter how much bandwidth it uses.
The idea behind the meetings was to find another way to enforce net neutrality rules without the need for broader Title 2 regulation. Those meetings ended without a compromise although the lobbyists have privately renewed their efforts. People close to those negotiations say there was no final agreement and that talks are continuing.
One issue on which the FCC is now asking for comment involves whether net-neutrality rules should apply to wireless networks. Phone companies don't want the rules to apply while high-tech companies and consumer advocates do.
Another issue involves whether broadband providers can offer paid priority Internet delivery for what the FCC calls "specialized services." AT&T Inc. and other phone companies want the ability to charge online companies extra fees for faster delivery of their traffic to consumers.
The FCC will accept comment on those issues for several weeks, which makes the likelihood of the agency adopting Title 2 re-regulation rules before the November election less likely. Congressional Republicans have opposed the regulation proposal, and it may be more difficult for Mr. Genachowski to implement if Republicans takes at least partial control of Congress.