FCC's Genachowski promises net neutrality 'will happen'

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the commission is still moving ahead on net neutrality rules, and he also knocked a public policy proposal Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) and Google put forward on the controversial topic.

"That will happen," Genachowski said of net neutrality rules, in response to a question at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. "We will make sure that we get the rules right, we need to make sure that what we do maximizes innovation and investment across the ecosystem."

The FCC's efforts to advance net neutrality rules--which are opposed by Verizon, AT&T (NYSE:T), Comcast and other big telcos, as well as the CTIA--have been slowed. Genachowski said the setback was due, in part, to the Verizon-Google proposal, which came out in August.

"I would have preferred if they didn't do exactly what they did when they did it," Genachowski said. "It had the effect of slowing down some processes."

Verizon 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.

The FCC's progress on net neutrality stalled in April when a federal appeals court ruled that the agency had overstepped its legal authority when it cited Comcast in 2008 for interfering with subscribers' access to peer-to-peer file sharing services. The ruling, Comcast v. FCC, said the FCC could not rely on its "ancillary jurisdiction" under Title I of the Telecommunications Act to regulate how Comcast managed its network.

"We were on a course to adopt smart, sensible rules when we got a frustrating and I think seriously incorrect decision from the courts," Genachowski said.

He declined to say what legal strategy the FCC will pursue on net neutrality, but said that the agency's "very smart lawyers" are trying to craft a way forward. Genachowski has proposed reclassifying broadband from a Title I information service to a Title II common-carrier service while at the same time forbearing from, or agreeing not to pursue, many of the regulations that are imposed on Title II services such as telephone systems.

Commissioner Meredith Attwell-Baker, one of the FCC's two Republican commissioners, said in a speech Wednesday that the FCC needs to be more careful in picking its battles.

"More judicious self-selection of the issues and proceedings we tackle would help us become a more predictable agency that fosters greater legal certainty, which can translate into private sector investment and jobs," she said, adding that "the Title II fight has underscored that this agency has limited authority and cannot create jurisdiction on its own." 

For more:
- see this Wired article
- see these two separate The Hill articles
- see this CNet article

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