FCC lays out net neutrality course

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's latest net neutrality push appears to be making what's old new again.

In his "third way" proposal, Genachowski wants to reclassify broadband from a Title I information service to a Title II common-carrier service. At the same time, the proposal will forebear, or not agree to pursue, many of the traditional regulations imposed on Title II service such as telephone systems.

After a federal appeals court ruled that the FCC had overstepped its authority in telling Comcast how it can regulate certain power user's broadband connections, Genachowski asked his staff to "move forward with broadband initiatives that empower consumers and enhance economic growth, while also avoiding regulatory overreach." Obviously, this latest move will be greeted with praise from consumer advocacy groups that want the agency to reclassify broadband and scorn from large telcos and cable operators such as AT&T (NYSE:T), Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and Comcast.  

One of the major concerns cable and traditional telcos have about reclassifying broadband is that it would drive them to cut funding to expand their respective network footprints and spend more time litigating in court.

Speaking out against the proposed plan is Bartlett Cleland, director of the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) Center for Technology Freedom, who argues the Title II rules are out of step with today's communications industry. "Title II is so antiquated, it isn't even appropriate for today's voice communications, let alone broadband," he said.

Despite protests against his plan, Genachowski said that his approach will focus only on broadband access to be classified as a telecom service. The FCC will then "put in place up-front forbearance and meaningful boundaries to guard against regulatory overreach."

Regardless of how the plan is structured, it is going to incite major carriers and cable operators to spend their dollars in court challenging the FCC's regulatory authority.  

For more:
- see this Washington Post article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article

Related articles:
Bad news for service providers: FCC now favors net neutrality
FCC's Genachowski charts way forward on net neutrality