Verizon calls for Telecommunications Act overhaul

Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) called for Congress to update the Telecommunications Act as part of an effort to better regulate broadband, the latest escalation over whether and how the FCC will enact net neutrality regulations.

Verizon Tom TaukeIn a speech at the Federalist Society's National Conference in Washington, Tom Tauke, Verizon's executive vice president of public affairs, policy and communications, said the Telecommunications Act, which was last updated in 1996, is "outdated." He said with regard to net neutrality, the FCC has focused too narrowly on how Internet service providers could block or degrade traffic, and not on other sectors of the ecosystem like operating systems or applications.

Tauke's comments come amid increasing speculation that the FCC may vote on some kind of net neutrality rules in December. The FCC has not yet circulated its agenda for its Dec. 15 meeting, but is expected to do so late Wednesday.

In his speech, Tauke said Congress should create a new federal regulatory framework for broadband that allows for rulings on a case-by-case basis. He said the government should intervene to prevent either harm to consumers or anti-competitive activity, and that a single federal agency should be given clear jurisdiction.

Last week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the commission is still moving ahead on net neutrality rules, which have been opposed by Verizon, AT&T (NYSE:T), Comcast and other big telcos as well as the CTIA. He also knocked a public policy proposal Verizon and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) put forward on the controversial topic. "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 in August a public policy framework that would forbid 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 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. After that, some lawmakers said they would consider updating the Communications Act to clear up the regulatory confusion, but the effort never went anywhere in Congress. 

For more:
- see this release
- see this Engadget post

Related Articles:
Report: FCC may move on net neutrality next month
FCC's Genachowski promises net neutrality 'will happen'
Net neutrality effort in Congress collapses
FCC still considering reclassification for net neutrality
Verizon strikes back at critics of net neutrality plan
Net neutrality - One year at the FCC