In an apparent victory for wireless carriers, the Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that it is seeking more public comment on rules for wireless access and specialized services. By seeking new public comment on the broad issue of net neutrality, the FCC seemed to be opening the way for dealing with Internet access in two tiers -- one less regulated than the other.
The issue -- which essentially is whether and to what degree the FCC should be able to regulate wireless web access -- has attracted ferocious lobbying. With wireless booming, the outcome will impact virtually all Americans on many levels and involve billions of dollars.
The FCC's call for additional comment follows a controversial proposal by Verizon and Google suggesting that mobile broadband and managed services could be exempted from net neutrality rules.
"Recent events have highlighted questions on how open Internet rules should apply to 'specialized' services and to mobile broadband -- what framework will guarantee Internet freedom and openness, and maximize private investment and innovation," said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement.
Wireless industry trade group CTIA hailed the FCC's action. "We are pleased the FCC has put out the public notice for comment," said CTIA president and CEO Steve Largent in a statement. "We are happy the Chairman and the Commissioners realize that wireless is different... The fact is that mobile Internet works for Americans... with more than 285 million subscriber connections."
Matt Wood, associate director of Media Access Project, a public interest group, was unhappy with the FCC action. "Recent events prove that giant corporations left to regulate themselves will craft rules full of loopholes and exceptions that benefit their own interest, not the public interest," he said. "The commission asks the same questions time and time again about wireless broadband services and specialized services, instead of providing basic answers on the basis of the robust record it already had compiled."
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