Groups: FCC, Genachowski Neutered Net Neutrality

By Kelly Teal Comments
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The FCC, on the verge of trying to codify Net neutrality rules, is taking a beating today from various groups who say the agency has yanked the teeth out of regulation that would have preserved an open Internet.

The Julius Genachowski-led FCC on Wednesday formally unveiled a proposal to keep Internet providers from managing Web traffic. But Genachowski avoided reclassifying broadband services, which would have given the agency greater oversight, while endorsing metered pricing and imposing light requirements on wireless operators. Indeed, the details come off as less weighty than the principles Genachowski had been expected to back. And several groups voiced their displeasure.

“Open Internet rules must include a basis for extending service to those not now covered, full application to wireless, protection against all efforts to block or degrade Internet access, and enforceable rules rather than an ad hoc complaint-based process," said Tyrone Brown, president of Media Access Project (MAP), in a statement. Brown added that MAP “is very disappointed … about the chairman’s proposal."

Free Press issued a similar release. Josh Silver, the group’s president and CEO, said he’s glad the FCC is moving ahead with a Net neutrality policy but that the proposal “looks like the fake Net neutrality preferred by foes of the open Internet."

“Real Net neutrality means a clear prohibition on paid prioritization, equal protections on wireless and wired networks, and a clear user-focused definition of broadband access and reasonable network management," Silver said. But the draft order “falls short on each of these important aspects, with language that creates loopholes that you could drive a Verizon-Google-sized truck through."

Public Knowledge said it’s pleased that the FCC is acting on Net neutrality, but wants some changes. First, the organization wants stronger rules for wireless Internet access; second, it wants a simpler definition of “broadband Internet access service"; and, third, it wants the FCC to have tighter rein over paid prioritization.

Still, other activists saw Genachowski’s proposal as a fair compromise. The Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP), called the document a “middle-ground approach."

“It appears the FCC has listened to our community and has come to a sensible framework regarding Net neutrality that supports an open and robust Internet – without extreme or burdensome regulation – so that our community can continue to work toward universal digital inclusion," said Gus West, co-chairman of HTTP and chairman of The Hispanic Institute. 

Telecom analysts at investment bank Stifel Nicolaus agreed.

“If regulatory nirvana was the day the FCC’s Comcast Net neutrality sanction was overturned in court, and regulatory purgatory was the day the chairman announced his initial preference for broadband reclassification, his proposed rules are a middle ground," wrote Rebecca Arbogast and David Kaut in a Dec. 1 client memo.

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