The NAACP, Urban League, United Church of Christ,
ACLU and others have called on FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to
focus on four "key goals" of the National Broadband Plan, and
suggested it would need to clarify its broadband oversight authority before it
can achieve them.
In a letter to the chairman, a copy of which was
supplied to reporters, the group said the FCC should hone in on expansion of
the Universal Service Fund, transparency and truth in billing, protecting
online privacy and Internet access for the disabled.
But to do that, they said the FCC needs to proceed
with the original plan to clarify its authority after that power was called
into question by the BitTorrent case, they wrote.
"While legislation might be one route to
achieving this objective, we urge the Commission to move forward expeditiously
to adopt a legally justifiable regulatory framework to enact the broadband
In some sense, the letter is preaching to the
choir. For example: The FCC is expected to launch a revamp of the Universal
Service Fund by the end of the year, and just this week achieved a $25 million
settlement with Verizon relating to its broadband billing practices.
The letter also came the same day the chairman
spoke to a Rainbow/PUSH broadband seminar about the importance of migrating
universal service funds from phone to Internet.
And FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick said
last spring that the BitTorrent decision could affect its authority to
implement parts of the plan, including deployment, disabled access,
transparency and privacy.
But whether the chairman proceeds with clarifying
broadband oversight before Congress weighs in, as the groups suggest, is less
The FCC is working on various scenarios, including
reclassifying broadband under some Title II common carrier regulations and
finding authority under its current Title I information service classification.
But the chairman has also encouraged stakeholders to come to agreement on a
legislative option that would provide clear direction from Congress.
That is partly driven by the pushback from
Congress on his Title II proposal, or so-called "third way."
Republican House members en masse, and something
like a quarter of the Democrats, advised him to back off that plan and get
marching orders from Congress. If Republicans take over the House in the
midterm elections, the pressure not to take unilateral action will only
NAACP and company said they were concerned that
the focus on the broadband plan objectives had gotten lost in the
net neutrality debate, and said that it would be impossible for the FCC to
meet those key broadband goals ASAP "without the re-establishment of clear
FCC authority to regulate in these critical areas."
Also signing on to the call for action were the
American Association of People with Disabilities, Asian American Justice
Center, Benton Foundation, Communications Workers of America, Consumer Action,
Consumer Watchdog Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National
Consumers League, NOW, Privacy International, Privacy Lives, Privacy Rights
Clearinghouse, and Privacy Times.