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FCC still considering reclassification for net neutrality

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FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has not abandoned the idea of reclassifying broadband as a Title II common-carrier service, which is seen as a key legal prerequisite for moving forward on codifying net neutrality regulations, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

A senior FCC official told the Journal that Genachowski has not abandoned the idea, and that "all options remain on the table."

The news comes amid renewed debate over net neutrality. On Wednesday, the FCC issued a statement saying it will seek new public comment on two of the thorniest issues surrounding the debate: whether and how the rules should be applied to wireless networks, and how to treat "specialized" services.

This notice comes weeks after Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) and Google recommended a public policy framework that forbids any kind of prioritization--including paid prioritization--of Internet traffic over wired networks. However, those rules would not apply to wireless networks, an exemption which has been criticized by public interest groups and other companies, including Facebook and Amazon. The proposal also said that certain advanced online services, such as telemedicine and smart grids, should not be covered by net neutrality regulations.

"Recent events have highlighted questions on how open Internet rules should apply to 'specialized' services and to mobile broadband," Genachowski said in a statement. "The issues are complex, and the details matter."

Verizon, AT&T (NYSE:T) and other telcos are opposed to reclassification, as well as rules for wireless networks, and the CTIA has continued to maintain that there is no need to include wireless networks in net neutrality guidelines. Meanwhile, public interest groups have encouraged the FCC to remain aggressive in the debate and not cede ground to corporate interests.

The FCC's notice mentions that AT&T and Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) have recently introduced usage-based mobile data pricing plans. "The emergence of these new business models may reduce mobile broadband providers' incentives to employ more restrictive network management practices that could run afoul of open Internet principles," the FCC said.

In other FCC news, the commission terminated the AWS-3 spectrum public interest rulemaking, and notified M2Z Networks about its decision. M2Z had petitioned the FCC to use the spectrum to create a free national wireless broadband network. The FCC is instead considering an auction of the spectrum, which lies in the 2.1 GHz band. The CTIA applauded the move, and said the decision is in line with the goals of the national broadband plan.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this IDG News Service article
- see this NYT article
- see this Broadcasting & Cable article

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