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FCC proposes new approach to broadband regulation

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] Thursday announced a new proposal that would allow the agency to regulate broadband Internet access despite a recent court ruling striking down [JURIST report] a key part of the proposed FCC National Broadband Plan [official website; materials]. The new approach classifies broadband transmission as a telecommunications service [statement] subject to FCC regulation. FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick said the proposed classification respects both the precedent established in last month's court ruling, as well as the framework of the Communications Act of 1934 [text, PDF]. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski explained that the new proposal is a compromise that will prevent too much regulation of the Internet, while still allowing regulations that will make broadband more accessible nationwide, as set forth in the 2010 Broadband Action Agenda [materials]. Genachowski described the next step for the new proposal [statement]:

I will ask my Commission colleagues to join me in soon launching a public process seeking comment on this narrow and tailored approach. ... As we move forward, my focus will be on the best method for restoring the shared understanding of FCC authority that existed before the Comcast decision and for putting in place a solid legal foundation for achieving the policy goals that benefit consumers and our economy in the most effective and least intrusive way.
Two Republican FCC Commissioners opposed the new approach, saying in a joint statement [text, PDF] that the FCC is overstepping its authority by acting without Congressional authorization.

Last month, the FCC vowed to move ahead [JURIST report] with its National Broadband Plan after the previous week's court ruling that it lacked the power to enforce net neutrality [JURIST news archive]. Net neutrality, which is unanimously supported [JURIST report] by the FCC's commissioners, was thought essential to the goal of an open flow of information over the Internet regardless of the amount of revenue generated by the information. The FCC sent the plan [JURIST report] to Congress for approval in March, seeking approval to enact regulations to update the communications infrastructure in the US and make broadband service available to millions more Americans. Telecommunications companies Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast [corporate websites] argue that net neutrality would inhibit their ability to effectively manage Internet traffic.

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