The FCC has not yet decided how it will respond to a court decision that cast doubt on its authority to regulate broadband and enforce new net neutrality rules for wireless and wired networks, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said. However, he did receive strong support from a key lawmaker.
Appearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, Genachowski said current law allows the FCC to move forward on many of the recommendations of its national broadband plan, but that some parts of it have been called into question. The court ruling "potentially raises question in a number of areas, including universal service to rural areas, public safety and cybersecurity," he said. "That's why it's important to make sure everything we do has a solid legal foundation."
Democratic senators urged the FCC to move forward on net neutrality, which would bar carriers from discriminating against different types of content on their networks. One way for the FCC to do so is to reclassify broadband as a Title II common carrier service, a move that has been sharply opposed by AT&T, Verizon and other telecom industry heavyweights. "I haven't made a decision yet," Genachowski said when asked what the FCC is planning to do.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the committee's chairman, said he would support legislation granting the FCC explicit authority to regulate broadband. "In the longer term, if there is a need to rewrite the law to provide consumers and the FCC and the industry with a new framework, I as chairman will take that task on," he said. "I think that is probably where we're going to end."
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) said the FCC clearly has the authority to make such a move. "Of course Congress has the opportunity to address this, but before now and the end of the year, I don't think Congress is likely to do it," Dorgan said. "So I think we have to look at the FCC to do it because the FCC unraveled it in the first place."
Republicans sharply questioned the chairman, arguing against further regulation by the FCC. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), the committee's ranking member, said the FCC should not "go back to the old kind of regulation that I think is going to stifle the evolution that we have seen on the Internet."
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