FCC chairman describes narrowly tailored 'third way' for broadband providers

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has intruded onto pre-Cable Show hype about what cable can do by delivering a six-page-long treatise on what the Commission thinks cable can't do. Boiled down, the FCC thinks that cable and other broadband providers can't be trusted to fairly deliver the services that the public wants and that delivery of the Internet is better left in the hands of a federal agency using a variation of rules that have covered telephone services for 80-plus years.

Genachowski labeled the plan a "third way" to deal with broadband providers by using a narrowly tailored framework that modifies 20th Century regulation Title II telephone regulation with 21st Century needs and networks. By making the decision to "recognize the transmission component of broadband access service--and only this component--as a telecommunications service (and) put in place up-front forbearance and meaningful boundaries to guard against regulatory approach," Genachowski believes the FCC has skirted a legal landmine that would have developed around full-scale regulation.

As might be expected, the Commission's plans did not sit well with cable. NCTA President-CEO Kyle McSlarrow issued a statement that "the case for new regulation of the Internet has not been made." Wayne Crews, vice president for policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute was harsher, noting that "the proposed reclassification of broadband services is really an unwarranted, unjustifiable power grab by a federal agency that is increasingly out of control."

Cablevision Systems' COO Tom Rutledge summed up the operators' perspective by noting that the cable industry has "built fantastic products as a result of the competitive situation that has been created in the existing laws. We don't think operating under 1930 laws, utility-type regulation makes any kind of sense."

For more:
- see the FCC statement
- this FierceWireless story
- and this story
- and this article
- the statement from Tom Rutledge
- and Kyle McSlarrow's take on the FCC's plan
- plus reactions from Competitive Enterprise Institute analysts

Related articles:
Net neutrality won't close the digital divide
Comcast wins latest round in net neutrality battle
FTC, not FCC, could rule the Internet if legislation passes

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