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5/13/2010
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Net Neutrality Debate Intensifies

Republican lawmakers say FCC chair Genachowski is pushing a government takeover of broadband.

The battle lines over Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski's proposal to classify broadband as a telecommunications service are hardening, as some Republican lawmakers are claiming the FCC chairman is seeking "to hurtle the agency down a misguided path." On the other side of the issue, new Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn said the broadband discussion is being overly influenced by lobbyists.

"An unfortunate reality is that having an open forum with reasonable and honest debate in this sphere appears unlikely," said Clyburn in a speech this week. "Instead, the lobbying machine for some extremely powerful interests has already been churning out quote-worthy lines at a rapid rate."

Indeed, the whole debate surrounding the future of broadband and net neutrality is being taken over by bombast as all sides in the issue maintain their way is the best way to create jobs and help the economy.

In a letter this week to President Obama, Congressman John Boehner, House minority leader, and Eric Cantor, Republican whip, called Genachowski's proposal a "pretext for this government takeover of yet another sector of our economy." The letter went on to maintain that the current deregulatory approach to the Internet has helped the private sector deploy broadband to 95% of U.S. households.

Clyburn said the FCC is trying to keep the Internet out of the hands of "industry gatekeepers. The only threatened 'takeover' of the Internet is by industry."

The major bone of contention is whether broadband could be moved from Title I of the Communications Act to Title II. A shift to Title II would define many broadband issues as telecommunications services and give the FCC more say in regulating the Internet. Generally, major carriers which provide Internet transmission, like AT&T and Verizon, oppose the shift, while content providers that use the Internet to provide their content, like Google, Skype, and Amazon, favor a shift to Title II.

The issue is currently before Congress, which is now dominated by Democrats, but the upcoming November election could change the political composition of Congress.

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