Google Suggests FCC Accord Broadband Providers with Common Carrier Status

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-05-03

Google tried to effect a position of neutrality in a 65-page filing concerning the Federal Communications Commission's authority to regulate broadband providers, but hinted that the agency should consider classifying broadband as a common carrier service.

Google, who argues that carriers should not have the right to block or stymie access to its Websites and applications, said the FCC has ample legal authority to adopt broadband openness rules and that it supports whatever jurisdictional fix is "most sustainable legally."

"To us this has never been about regulatory rigidity but about protecting consumers and keeping the Internet open for innovators," noted Rick Whitt, Washington telecom and media counsel, in a blog post April 26. "So while we're not wed to any particular legal theory to justify the FCC's jurisdiction, we do believe some minimal oversight over broadband networks is essential."

The Washington Post's Cecilia Kang detected more of Google's plans than what was outlined in the brief blog post. Kang noted that Google suggested that the FCC reclassify broadband as a Title II common carrier service, something broadband providers would no doubt resist with aggressive litigation.

Carriers do not want to be told how to handle the data they shuttle on their networks. Google said that it would be unwise for the FCC to continue relying on its Title I authority to adopt the proposed broadband openness rules.

"The FCC should consider a number of options, including pursuing a decision grounded in whole or in part on its unquestioned authority under existing statutory titles, including Title II," Google wrote in this April 26 filing.

This would prohibit broadband providers from discriminating in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities or services for their communication services.

This, of course, embodies the network neutrality issue Google has been aggressively promoting to make sure users have the best opportunities possible to access its search and other Web applications.

The FCC saw its regulatory authority over broadband providers blistered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, whichruled 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 boundaries by claiming Comcast violated FCC network neutrality policies.

Nearly a month later, this ruling has FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski leaning toward maintaining the current regulatory structure of broadband Internet service instead of extending its purview.

The Washington Post said the chairman thinks "reclassifying" would serve as an investment deterrent for broadband providers. In other words, the FCC appears to be caving to the big companies who control the data pipes.

This would be a resounding blow to FCC network neutrality principles that prohibit broadband providers from blocking users from accessing and sharing lawful content and applications from any devices.

Google was initially quiet about the court's decision to strike down the FCC's plans. The company's suggestion that the FCC push common carrier status on ISPs, buried as it was in the filing, shows the company fears the loss of network neutrality.


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