Net Neutrality: FCC to Try for Broadband Reclassification

Just two days after reports surfaced that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski would in fact not try to reclassify broadband as a means of ensuring Net neutrality, the Wall Street Journal says that’s not the case.

According to the Journal, Genachowski will work to re-regulate Internet access as a telecommunications service, which means more government oversight.

Companies including AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., Comcast Corp. and their respective associations are bound to be very unhappy. And they’re bound to sue.

On the other hand, a number of smaller providers and their supporters – including COMPTEL – will praise the new development.

The Journal said Genachowski’s staff started talking to commissioners on Wednesday about how to bring Internet access back under Title II. The Michael Powell- and Kevin Martin-led commissions classified that access as an information service five and six years ago, respectively, under pressure from incumbents.

Incumbents – and perhaps even some smaller CLECs such as Cbeyond Inc., which are purely IP-based – likely will file lawsuits, something the FCC had to have known would happen. But Genachowski apparently is willing to take the chance.

This is a big step for Genachowski, and could well be considered part of his “legacy.” The team he appointed to formulate the national broadband plan excluded Net neutrality as a requirement because they feared it was too controversial. Genachowski, however, appears to be willing to challenge that obstacle, especially since President Barack Obama, with whom Genachowski is close, also wants net neutrality mandates.

The state of Net neutrality came into question in early April; that happened after a federal appeals court ruled against the (Kevin Martin-led) FCC for trying to punish Comcast for slowing some peer-to-peer traffic. Observers suspected the entire issue was dead. Yet, the latest reports indicate the industry is in for a whole new series of fights.

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