The FCC on Thursday voted to give itself authority to regulate broadband Internet access transmission, but two of the five commissioners dissented, citing a potential slowdown in broadband access investment and a loss of U.S. Internet leadership.
The Federal Communications Commission is opening a new proceeding and invited public comment to help identify which of three ways to regulate broadband Internet access is best.
Specifically, the FCC wants to look at whether Broadband Internet service should continue to be classified as an "information service," as is the current situation; as a "telecommunications service;" or as some possible "third way."
That "third way" would leave Internet content and applications unregulated under Title I of the Communications Act, identifying wired broadband Internet service as telecommunications service.
The FCC is also seeking comment on how to classify terrestrial wireless and satellite broadband Internet services.
The decision to continue exploring the alternatives comes in the wake of the FCC's decision in May to regulate different forms of Internet access in different ways, paving the way to classify the transmission component of broadband access service as a telecommunications service.
According to the FCC, that is a more acceptable alternative to either classifying broadband Internet service as an "information service" or classifying broadband Internet connectivity as a "telecommunications service."
The FCC's reasoning is that such a move would offer a more solid legal foundation, make it clear that the FCC is not regulating the entire Internet, and would establish reasonable regulatory boundaries.
There has been a lot of pressure on the FCC to come up with a coherent policy for regulating broadband Internet access. In May, House Democrats and Senate Republicans ganged up on the FCC in an effort to convince the regulatory body to drop its classification of the service as a telecommunications service.
In its Thursday briefing on its decision, the FCC acknowledged that a recent decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit cast doubt on whether the FCC can "ensure fair competition and provide consumers with basic protections when they use today’s broadband Internet services."
"Today’s action begins the process of identifying the best way forward to ensure a solid and narrowly tailored legal foundation for implementing key recommendations of the National Broadband Plan -- such as refocusing the federal universal service program on promoting broadband deployment and adoption, ensuring consumers have access to relevant information about their broadband services, customer privacy, and access for people with disabilities – as well as for preserving the open Internet," the FCC wrote.
However, it was a split decision, with Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and two Commissioners agreeing to the move, and two other Commissioners dissenting.
Next: Three Of Five Commissioners Agree On Upcoming Discussions