FCC Takes Heat Over Internet Control Plan

The move by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski comes as the FCC’s grip on ISPs slips away and the federal agency scrambles to regain control over the expanding broadband industry. It follows a court decision in April that found the FCC didn’t have the authority to punish Comcast for blocking peer-to-peer applications. That ruling essentially said the FCC has no jurisdiction over Internet service providers and cannot enforce traffic-throttling policies as a way to regulate network traffic.

Genachowski’s and the FCC’s proposal – which the chairman called a middle-of-the-road plan - would lump ISPs in with the telephone companies, while exempting Internet providers from a handful of rules to which telephone companies must adhere. The reclassification would further the FCC’s plan to expand the reach of broadband and the Internet and foster net neutrality among ISPs, meaning all traffic on the Web would be treated equally.

“I sought an approach consistent with the limited but essential role that government should play with respect to broadband communications,” Genachowski told The Washington Post, adding he did not wish to burden the thriving broadband industry with a heavy regulatory hand.

Despite Genachowski’s apparently diplomatic plan, ISPs and telecom and broadband watchdogs quickly went on the offensive.

Sponsored post

“We are very concerned about the direction this is going,” Grant Seiffert, chief executive of the Telecommunications Industry Association, an industry lobbying group, told The Wall Street Journal.

“We believe that the chairman's stated approach is legally unsupported,” said Verizon Executive Vice President Tom Tauke said in a statement.

Genachowski’s and the FCC’s plan would revise the $8 billion yearly rural phone subsidy to fund new broadband networks. And while Internet providers would be governed under similar rules as telecoms for privacy and access for disabled users. Broadband providers, however, would not be tied to rules that force telephone companies to share lines with competitors.

“The fact remains that this approach would subject Internet facilities to some of the most onerous regulatory provisions on the books,” said Jim Cicconi, senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs at AT&T, told The Washington Post.