FCC grapples with net neutrality authority

The FCC is considering aggressive measures to ensure it has the authority to impose net neutrality regulations in the wake of a recent court hearing in which that authority was called into question. Meanwhile, the agency received a flood of comments about its proposed net neutrality rules.

Last week at a federal appeals court hearing, a three-judge panel sharply questioned whether the FCC had overstepped its authority when it ordered Comcast in 2008 to stop blocking subscribers' access to the BitTorrent file-sharing service. The court has not ruled on the case, but the hearing cast doubt on the FCC's ability to impose net neutrality regulations.

"If the court removes the legal basis for the current approach to broadband, the commission may be compelled to undertake a major reassessment of its policy framework ... or Congress will have to act," Colin Crowell, a senior adviser to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, told the Washington Post. "Any policies the commission pursues for the broadband marketplace will be rooted in the pro-consumer, pro-competitive structure of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, regardless of how the court ultimately decides."

When the FCC approved preliminary net neutrality rules in October, including ones that would apply to wireless broadband networks, the commission's two Republican commissioners said they were unsure there was enough of a problem to warrant new regulations, and questioned whether the FCC had the authority to impose the new rules.

While the FCC looks to assert its position on net neutrality, those opposed to and supportive of net neutrality regulations have been airing their concerns. Yesterday was the last day to file initial public comments on the agency's proposed net neutrality action.

"Quite simply, we believe that these rules are inappropriate for wireless broadband networks and unnecessary to ensure that wireless consumers continue to enjoy the open Internet," CTIA chief Steve Largent said in a statement. "All elements of the wireless ecosystem are flourishing. As Americans continue to adopt mobile broadband at a rapid pace, our members are investing billions of dollars every year to deliver wireless Internet across the country. This is a model that is working for consumers and regulation is not needed."

Skype, meanwhile, said the new rules are about "growing the broadband ecosystem and preserving a borderless, open Internet," adding that net neutrality regulations would "promote investment, jobs and innovation."

Additionally, Google and Verizon reiterated their newfound partnership on the issue via a joint filing with the FCC. The companies said persevering an "open Internet" means there should be "minimal interference from the government while acknowledging the role for appropriate oversight (and enforcement)."

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

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