FCC On Verge of Issuing Net Neutrality Order

The FCC has pushed back its December meeting by a week as commissioners reportedly work on the contentious Net neutrality issue, and companies including AT&T Inc. have wasted no time lobbying the agency.

Indeed, in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, AT&T called or met with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski eight times, according to the Washington Post. The company is desperate to stop any regulation that, it says, would lack sensitivity to the dynamics of investment in a difficult economy, or to the capabilities and challenges inherent in different broadband technologies," AT&T wrote in a filing at the FCC.

Telecom analysts at investment bank Stifel Nicolaus said last week they think the substance of a Net neutrality remains in flux.

We believe the chairman remains interested in building on the net neutrality provisions developed by Rep. Waxman, D-Calif., which represented a compromise but was never introduced due to Republican opposition,” explained Rebecca Arbogast and David Kaut. The Waxman draft would have prevented wireline broadband providers from unjustly or unreasonably discriminating against lawful Internet traffic and prohibited wireless broadband providers from blocking websites as well as competing voice or video conferencing applications.”

Kaut and Arbogast added that they think Genachowski is considering an approach that would generally bar unreasonable wireline broadband discrimination but not prohibit specialized/managed services, leaving those to be monitored and dealt with case by case, if necessary.”

Still, wireless operators, especially, are particularly concerned because they dont want any provisions to hinder their mobile services. Thats one reason why AT&T spent so much time pressuring the FCC before the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Genachowski will need three votes for any order he introduces; analysts predict he would have that support but they also suspect carriers opposed to Net neutrality would fire back in court.

The FCC now will hold its monthly meeting on Dec. 21, instead of Dec. 15.

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