FCC Chief Proposes Solution To Net-Neutrality Battle

One day after a major broadband provider reported that Comcast required an additional fee for streaming a rival’s Internet movies, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission offered a new Net-neutrality proposal. On Wednesday, Julius Genachowski proposed barring wireline providers from blocking “lawful content” or applications, and banning “unreasonable discrimination in transmitting lawful network traffic.” But his proposal does allow “reasonable network management,” including usage-based metering.

The proposal also includes “a basic no-blocking rule” for wireless providers, but since that environment is “evolving rapidly,” Genachowski gives wireless more latitude, with unspecified monitoring for “anticompetitive or anticonsumer” conduct. While the FCC had been considering the reclassification of Internet providers as “telecommunications” rather than “informational” services to give the agency broader powers, the FCC is now trying a different approach.

‘An Ingenious Solution’

Instead of reclassification, the FCC chairman is attempting to utilize a provision of the 1996 Telecommunications Act that allows the agency to step in if broadband goals are not being met, including fostering an environment for business innovation.

Genachowski’s argument is that, unless service providers are prevented from discriminating against competing services, an innovation-friendly environment cannot be obtained. The proposed framework will be subject to a vote at the FCC meeting on Dec. 21.

Many industry observers expect Genachowski’s proposal to be accepted by at least one, and possibly both, of the FCC’s Democratic commissioners. One of the two, Michael J. Copps, has voiced support for more stringent regulations, while the two Republican commissioners are expected to oppose the framework.

Matt Davis, an analyst with IDC, described the FCC proposal as “an ingenious solution” to the issue of Net neutrality, since there has been substantial political and industry opposition to reclassifying Internet providers as “telecommunications” services.

‘Established Practice’

He noted that the FCC has been “building its case that broadband is essential to the health of…

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