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Free Press: Net Legislation Should Not Supplant FCC Title II Action - Broadcasting & Cable

Free Press: Net Legislation Should Not Supplant FCC Title II Action

Says Commission "cannot afford to wait to defer to the Hill"
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Free
Press says a legislative clarification of the FCC's broadband regulatory should
not supplant commission action to do so under Title II common carrier
authority.

FCC
Chairman Julius Genachowski has proposed applying some Title II regulations to
broadband transmissions to provide that clarity in the wake of the D.C. court's
smackdown of its BitTorrent decision
, comments on which are due at the FCC
today. But his chief of staff, Edward Lazarus, has also been meeting with
various stakeholders including cable and telco interests, Google, and the Open
Internet Coaltion, of which Free Press is a member, on a possible legislative
solution.

Given
the pushback from some in Congress and most in industry on the chairman's
so-called "third way" Title II proposal, a "fourth way"
targeted bill, if it united the two sides of the debate, put the job of
clarifying congressional authority in the hands of Congress, and could be passed
before legislators exit to try to get re-elected, it could be a win-win for the
chairman. But it is also an extremely tall order.

In
its filing Thursday, Free Press said that given the pace of legislative change,
the FCC cannot afford to wait to defer to the Hill, "regardless of
political posturing and closed-door negotiations at the FCC."

Without
action as soon as possible, they suggest, broadband providers will be free to
block and degrade Internet traffic at will. "The agency needs to move
quickly to vote on the proposal, "says the group, "as any further
delay leaves millions of broadband customers without basic consumer protections
and threatens the future of the open Internet."

There
are at least two potential legislative tracks, one a more targeted bill that
could conceivably move on a faster track, and via the current Hill talks about
a rewrite of the Telecommunications Act--more talks are scheduled for Friday
according to sources--which could take years.

"Various
parties have suggested that Congress could step in and restore the Commission's
authority over broadband networks," said Free Press. "While Congress
has begun discussions regarding comprehensive revisions to the Communications
Act, the legislative process necessarily operates more slowly than the
administrative process. The last time Congress updated the Communications Act,
it took at least five years. Because we cannot afford to wait that long to
pursue the nation's broadband goals, congressional efforts cannot and should
not supplant Commission action."

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