FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski May 6 laid down new rules for applying narrow regulations to broadband providers, which should please Internet companies such as Google even as it threatens Comcast and Cablevision. Conservatives disdain the proposal, fearing government regulation over Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner and other access providers would stifle investment and innovation. Democrats lent their support to Genachowski's plan, characterizing it as a victory for network neutrality and consumers.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius
Genachowski May 6 laid down new rules for applying narrow regulations to
broadband providers, which should please Internet companies such as Google as
much as it dismays Internet access providers such as Comcast and Cablevision.
Under the "third way broadband framework," Genachowski said the FCC
will recognize the transmission component of broadband access service as a
telecommunications service and apply only the six sections of Title II that were believed to be
within the FCC's purview for broadband.
The FCC will also put in place rules to guard against regulatory overreach. Genachowski
also said the approach will forbid the FCC from regulating rates charged by
telephone and cable companies for Internet service.
The commission also may not regulate the Internet, he said.
"It will treat only the transmission component of broadband access
service as a telecommunications service while preserving the longstanding
consensus that the FCC should not regulate the Internet, including Web-based
services and applications, e-commerce sites, and online content,"
Genachowski's "third way" is geared to boost network neutrality
rules that order Internet service providers to treat all traffic equally, and
not give preferential treatment to some Websites over others. Net neutrality
has become something of a crusade for companies such as Google and Amazon,
which depend on the Internet to deliver Web services and goods.
The third way is also a measured response to the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the District of Columbia Circuit, which ruled April 6 that the FCC did not have the authority
to order Comcast to stop throttling BitTorrent traffic and that Comcast could
regulate Internet traffic over its own system.
The FCC in 2008 had complained that Comcast and other Internet providers
must treat content that traverses their pipes equally. Comcast took the FCC to
the court and won, with the court claiming the FCC had overstepped its
As such, the FCC's third way, perceived as a rally against the court's
decision, must have a strong legal footing. FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick believes it is rooted in the idea that the computing
component and the broadband transmission component of Internet access service
are separate entities subject to different regulation.
Genachowski's third way is also a move to prop up the National Broadband
Plan, which was dealt a hard blow by Comcast's victory. The FCC said the
Comcast ruling impedes plans to accelerate broadband access and adoption in
and connecting low-income Americans, among other
The third way is designed to turn the tables on Comcast. Genachowski's
proposal must be approved by three or more of the FCC's five commissioners
before it can come to fruition.
Reaction to Genachowski's third way plan was swift and cleanly divided.
Conservatives disdain the proposal, fearing government regulation over
Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner and other access providers would stifle
investment and innovation. Democrats lent their support to Genachowski's plan,
characterizing it as a victory for network neutrality and consumers.
Google, whose interests lie in making sure its Web applications are accessed
freely on the Internet, pointed eWEEK to
this letter from the Open Internet Coalition, whose members include Google,
Amazon, eBay and others.
OIC Executive Director Markham Erickson also noted:
"After Comcast v. FCC, consumers were essentially stranded on the
information highway without protection from the FCC. This step by the FCC
ensures that consumer choice and innovation on the broadband Internet will
receive the protections this essential communications infrastructure for the
21st century requires."
Comcast told Bloomberg it is "disappointed" by
Genachowski's action. Cablevision COO Tom
Rutledge said on the company's first-quarter conference call today that
regulating network providers under rules written in the early 20th century is a