FCC Head Said Leaning Toward Rethink of Internet Regulation

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski

The Washington Post is reporting that the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission wants to leave broadband services unregulated.

Quoting anonymous sources, the Post said that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was now thinking of maintaining current regulatory policy "but making some changes that would still bolster the FCC's chances of overseeing some broadband policies."

If true, the rethink should please telcommunications providers, which are perfectly content with the current regime. However, it's not likely to go down well with public interest groups, which has pushed for more regulation to prevent businesses from arbitrarily setting access decisions to the Internet. Responding to the report, Free Press Executive Director Josh Silver put out a statement expressing astonishment that Genachowski might consider going down this path.

"Failing to reclassify broadband means the FCC is abandoning the signature communications and technology issues of the Obama administration," he wrote in a response. "Such a decision would destroy Net Neutrality. It would deeply undermine the FCC's ability to ensure universal Internet access for rural, low-income and disabled Americans. It will undermine the FCC's ability to protect consumers from price-gouging and invasions of privacy."

Last month the FCC got overruled by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit which found that the agency did not have the right to levy sanctions against Comcast. The FCC had moved against Comcast for what it asserted was unjustified interference with a peer-to-peer file sharing video application called BitTorrent.. In its defense, Comcast said that it took the action in order to make sure that all subscribers were provided with a better user experience.BitTorrent is an app frequently used by people who download high-bandwith files and, in theory, that can affect overall network performance.

According to sources which spoke with the Post, "Genachowski thinks "reclassifying" broadband to allow for more regulation would be overly burdensome on carriers and would deter investment. But they said he also thinks the current regulatory framework would lead to constant legal challenges to the FCC's authority every time it attempted to pursue a broadband policy."

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

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