Report: Genachowski likely to keep current broadband regulatory framework

Although no official decision on the topic has been made, the Washington Post reported that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski likely won't reclassify broadband from an information service to a Title II common-carrier service. If Genachowski does indeed decide not to move forward with reclassification, the move could put in further jeopardy his efforts to impose net neutrality guidelines on wireless and wireline networks.

Citing unnamed sources, the Washington Post's Cecilia Kang wrote that Genachowski has not made a final decision on the topic, but that he is currently leaning toward keeping in place the market's current regulatory framework. The news is sure to delight opponents of reclassification such as AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T), Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and CTIA.

However, according to the report, Genachowski does hope to continue pushing net neutrality, but under a legal framework built on the current regulatory structure. The goal, according to the report, is to avoid what would likely be multiple lawsuits sparked by a reclassification effort.

The debate stems from a U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruling that said the FCC overstepped its statutory authority when it cited Comcast in 2008 for interfering with subscribers' access to peer-to-peer file sharing services. The court said the FCC could not rely on its "ancillary jurisdiction" under Title I of the Telecommunications Act to regulate how Comcast managed its network. The ruling, Comcast v. FCC, essentially said that if the FCC wants to move ahead with the draft net neutrality rules it proposed in October for wired and wireless networks, it has to find a better legal justification for doing so--and experts widely agree that the best way for the FCC to move forward was to reclassify broadband and thereby gain greater regulatory authority over the service.

Proponents of net neutrality lamented Genachowski's reported evasion of reclassification.

"Failing to reclassify broadband means the FCC is abandoning the signature communications and technology issues of the Obama administration. Such a decision would destroy net neutrality," Free Press' Josh Silver told the Post's Kang. "It would deeply undermine the FCC's ability to ensure universal Internet access for rural, low-income and disabled Americans. It will undermine the FCC's ability to protect consumers from price-gouging and invasions of privacy."

According to the Post, an FCC spokesperson said only that Genachowski has not made a final decision.

Long a topic of debate, net neutrality proponents argue such guidelines are essential in order to ensure American's unfettered access to the Internet. Opponents, meanwhile, argue such regulations would impose complex regulations on a market that has so far shown little need for oversight.

For more:
- see this Post article
- see this blog post by the Post's Kang

Related Articles:
FCC, industry debate merits of net neutrality rules
What's next for net neutrality?
FCC's Clyburn open to reclassifying broadband
FCC: No decision yet on net neutrality strategy

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