Congress Rebukes FCC’s 3rd Way Towards Net Neutrality: Genachowski Tries to Think of a 4th Way

by Matt Klassen on May 26, 2010

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski

There have been few stories over the past month that I have followed as closely, with as much vested interest, or with a similar sense of passion than the ongoing drama surrounding the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and its controversial Net Neutrality plan. Whether it was a secretive powerpoint presentation, the announcement that the FCC was trying to reclassify only a small section of the Telecommunications Act to cover wireless broadband, or the simple fact that Congress sided with wireless providers like Comcast in the ongoing struggle, I retained a sense of optimism; a naïve hope that despite the setbacks, the resistance, and the incompetent leadership of Chairman Julius Genachowski that Net Neutrality would still find life.

Turns out I was wrong. Earlier this week the FCC received an astounding bipartisan reaction from Congress, categorically stating that what the FCC is trying to do by reclassifying broadband to fit under the Telecommunications Act is both illegal and unsupported by Congress, meaning that if the FCC was hoping to regain some semblance of power and relevance they’ll have to come up with some other plan (anyone have a fourth way?).

But even when I’m wrong it still seems that I’m right, as now there remains only one course of action left for the FCC, one that I predicted when this whole mess first began.

For those unfamiliar with this ongoing story, supporters of Net Neutrality argue that updated telecommunications regulations are necessary to cover wireless Internet broadband, in an effort to stop providers from arbitrarily restricting or prioritizing one type of traffic over against another. On the other hand, free market groups, many Republicans, and of course broadband providers resist the regulations through fear that such legal impositions would restrict new innovations and ultimately hurt both the companies and their customers.

This battle came to a head last month in the conclusion to an ongoing court case between the FCC and wireless provider Comcast. But unlike the court ruling in the FCC’s case against Comcast over the wireless provider’s controversial throttling of its broadband network, which clearly left the FCC with some measure of hope that the Net Neutrality plan still had life, Congress has now directly rebuked the Commission, letting Genachowski know, in no uncertain terms, that what he’s trying to do has neither the backing of Congress nor the support of any current law.

This means that even Genachowski’s attempt at finding some middle ground, what he referred to as the third way to implementing Net Neutrality, is now dead in the water as well. While the move, in my mind, clearly jeopardizes Genachowski’s job—I mean, what has he done except to effectively neuter the organization President Obama charged him with leading?—it also injects a significant element of uncertainty into the process, meaning that for those of us who were hoping to see some Net Neutrality legislation introduced this year, it looks like we’ll be waiting quite a bit longer…perhaps for the rest of our lives.

What is simply amazing to me in this whole process, however, is the absolute power that lobbyists have over Congress, as both Democratic and Republican congressman resisted this bill, stating the damage it would do to jobs, competition, and future innovation.

However, the fact that many of the countries who have imposed similar Net Neutrality standards have not faced any of these issues is a clear sign that Congress is being fed lies and half-truths, and who better to feed them those lies than lobbyists funded by wireless broadband company coffers? I just love how government works.

Buts perhaps everything isn’t quite as bleak as it seems, as news was released today that several Democrats have undertaken the laborious task of revising the Telecommunications Act, a move that I have always known would be inevitable for the FCC to gain any real power against the wireless providers.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS >, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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2010: The Year of Net Neutrality — TheTelecomBlog.com
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