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12/2/2010
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FCC Focuses On Waxman 'Net Neutrality' Framework

The agency's proposal will be based on Congressman Henry Waxman's "strong and balanced framework" for regulating broadband, said FCC chairman Genachowski.

With the Federal Communications Commission's announcement that it will review net neutrality on Dec. 21, the real devil will be in the details: what framework will be voted on by the commissioners, who are already divided, perhaps irretrievably?

The focus then is on "the framework" developed by Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman of California, who is chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

In his remarks Wednesday about the Dec. 21 meeting, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said: "This proposal would build upon the strong and balanced framework developed by chairman Henry Waxman, which garnered support from technology and telecommunications companies, big and small, as well as from consumer and public interest groups."

While the actual framework won't be known until it is formally presented, Waxman's early work on attempting to work out a compromise on net neutrality may hold some hints. Initially favoring a move to so-called Title II telecommunications to regulate some aspects of the Internet, Waxman -- and the FCC -- have dropped that measure, much to the delight of carriers and cable companies.

With the knowledge that the proposal is dynamic and subject to change since Waxman's Sept. 29 statement, he outlined "key consumer protections" including enforcing transparency of broadband providers' practices, prohibiting broadband and app providers from blocking websites, preventing carriers from discriminating against any lawful Internet traffic and restoring the FCC's authority to prevent blocking Internet content, which was struck down in April by a U.S. Appeals Court in favor of Comcast.

Advocates on both sides of the debate have begun to weigh in as they attempt to decide which way the wind will blow on the Dec. 21 vote.

Steve Largent, president and CEO of CTIA -- The Wireless Association -- said he was pleased that the FCC has "moved away from broad Title II regulation and toward a more tailored approach that recognizes the unique nature of wireless services... We believe significant input from a bipartisan majority of Congress and others, and the willingness of the Chairman (Genachowski) to seek a workable solution, have contributed toward making the proposed rules less onerous." Largent added that if any new rules are adopted, they should be reviewed in two years.

Consumer advocate Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, also weighed in on "the never-introduced legislative framework developed by" Waxman and included in her arguments her concern that "two Internets, one wired and one wireless" could be created, with the wireless broadband network negatively impacting the country's people of color and the poor.

"Public Knowledge's difficult decision to support the Waxman framework was predicated on the assurances of the Congressman and his staff that the proposal was a floor, and not a ceiling for FCC action if the framework was not enacted into law," she stated. "Right now, the FCC is at the floor, and the only place to go is up."

The Open Internet Order scheduled for a vote Dec. 21 is written as follows: "An Order adopting basic rules of the road to preserve the open Internet as a platform for innovation, investment, competition and free expression. These rules could protect consumers' and innovators' right to know basic information about broadband service, right to send and receive lawful Internet traffic, and right to a level playing field, while providing broadband Internet access providers with the flexibility to reasonably manage their networks."

For Further Reading

Google, Verizon Propose Net Neutrality Without Wireless

Facebook Criticizes Google Verizon Net Neutrality Pact

FCC Net Neutrality Vote Set For Dec. 21

Congress Considering Rewrite Of Telecom Law

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