The NewsDemon Blog

FCC Attempts Third Way To Regulate ISPs

By Newsgroup Usenet May 10th, 2010

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced his third attempt at gaining acceptance for online neutrality last week, sparking yet another furor over the issue as it could affect USENET newsgroup access. This time, he’s proposing a narrower approach toward reclassifying broadband access services as telecommunications services, in the hope that this might win over the industry.

The move comes in the wake a federal appeals court ruling that concluded the FCC overstepped its authority in attempting to prevent Comcast’s Internet throttling, an action that has thrown into disarray the commission’s plans to codify net neutrality regulations.

The basis of the FCC’s general broadband plan is to provide broadband Internet access to more Americans, in part by limiting the ability of ISPs to restrict the amount of bandwidth users consume, and by barring them from showing preference to their own traffic or to traffic generated by users who pay a premium for bandwidth.

Grouping ISPs with telephone companies would give the FCC the authority to impose so-called net neutrality—prohibiting an ISP from slowing or denying user access to an application or service–a say-so it sought but was denied in the Comcast ruling.  Currently, companies like Comcast have no restriction on bandwidth throttling, which can result in drastic reductions in speed and access time.

The opposition consisting of most ISPS minus Sprint, has been lining up to criticize the proposal, arguing that any type of regulation will stifle investment because complying with the regulation is expensive and onerous.

Carriers don’t like FCC chairman Julius Genachowski’s “Third Way” proposal for net neutrality because it would bring them under increased regulation by classifying broadband as a “telecommunications service.” Public interest groups generally maintain Gonachowski’s approach would lead to delivery of faster broadband services to more Americans including many who have been shortchanged in rural areas.

“We believe this is without legal basis. Make no mistake—when it regulates the networks that comprise the Internet, the FCC is in fact, and for the first time, regulating the Internet itself… We feel confident that if the FCC proceeds down this path, the federal courts will ultimately reach the same conclusion.” – from ATT

Many newsgroup subscribers say that they didn’t trust the notion that the FCC would take only a limited approach to the new regulations, and that the “Trojan Horse” of this good intention is to choke ISPs on other issues and matters down the line.