Eshoo to FCC: Eschew Martin era rules and regulate internet


In an editorial in the San Jose Mercury News, US Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) argued that the win granted Comcast by the DC Circuit in its battle with the FCC over a net-neutrality issue was a repudiation of the Kevin Martin FCC, not a repudiation of the FCC’s authority to regulate the internet.

Eshoo is a member in good standing of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and also sits on the key Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.

She described the case: “Former Chairman Kevin Martin’s FCC failed to follow legal procedures when punishing Comcast for violating an informal policy statement. Comcast may have acted improperly when it blocked access to BitTorrent’s peer-to-peer sites, but the FCC needed to give fair warning before issuing sanctions. The FCC should have initiated a rule-making process first, and then spelled out its reasons and authority for regulating broadband. The absence of a rule-making process discussing statutory jurisdiction made it impossible to understand the FCC’s authority to take action against Comcast. The court had no choice but to overrule the FCC.”

Her prescription: “The FCC can ask the court for additional guidance and adopt real rules that make net neutrality, or an open Internet, a permanent fixture. Or, the FCC can reclassify broadband as a common carrier like telephones, which are subject to consumer protection requirements that mimic net neutrality principles. Regardless of the method, I will continue working to ensure an accessible and open broadband rollout.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Quite a few people believe that the FCC can re-establish its authority to require open and neutral content carriage of ISPs all on its own, and on top of that, there are plenty on Capitol Hill more than willing to spell out the FCC’s authority in a piece of legislation. This battle is far from over.