FCC December agenda includes net neutrality plank


The big story in communications regulation has been the announcement by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski that an item on a free and open internet is being circulated for commissioner review and will be on the agenda at the Commission’s next open meeting, slated for 12/21/10.

It will share time with only one other item, as it currently stands, a look at the next generation of 9-1-1 systems.

Genachowski will face certain opposition from the two Republican commissioners. Robert McDowell criticized the plan immediately and publicly, and Meredith Baker also came out against it. Democrats Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn were open to the proceeding but did not make any commitment to it or against it. For Copps in particular, contemporary wisdom suggests he may not find it to be strong enough.

The FCC described the item, writing, “Open Internet Order: An Order adopting basic rules of the road to preserve the open Internet as a platform for innovation, investment, competition, and free expression. These rules would protect consumers’ and innovators’ right to know basic information about broadband service, right to send and receive lawful Internet traffic, and right to a level playing field, while providing broadband Internet access providers with the flexibility to reasonably manage their networks.”

Here are comments issued by Copps, Baker and Clyburn.

* FCC Commissioner Michael Copps (D): It’s no secret that I am looking for the strongest protections we can get to preserve an Open Internet, built on the most secure legal foundation so we don’t find ourselves in court every other month. Over the next three weeks, I will work tirelessly with stake-holders—including, of course, consumers and Internet innovators—seeking to ensure real network neutrality that protects the online freedom of all Americans. Today is the beginning of an important discussion, and not the end.  We have an historic opportunity to make sure this dynamic Internet technology reaches its full potential to create opportunity for every citizen. I hope we will make the most of it. At issue is who will control access to the online experiences of consumers—consumers themselves or Big Phone and Big Cable gatekeepers.

* FCC Commissioner Meredith Baker (R): The Chairman has announced his intent for the Commission to adopt a Net Neutrality Order at our delayed December Open Meeting. He has circulated a draft that purports to be a compromise solution. This is a mistake. We do not have authority to act. The new majority of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has asked the Commission not to circulate this Order, and a clear majority of all Members of Congress has expressed concern with our Internet policies. Whether the Internet should be regulated is a decision best left to the directly elected representatives of the American people. I urge the Chairman to defer action on Net Neutrality until the new Congress has had an opportunity to address this issue. Until such time, it would be reckless and inappropriate for the Commission to act upon the Chairman’s controversial and partisan proposal. Moving forward would be a direct rebuke of Congress that could jeopardize unnecessarily our ability to partner with Congress on issues of great national importance.

* FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn (D): I am anxious to begin my review of the Chairman’s agenda meeting item that seeks to preserve an open and free Internet. We have been discussing this matter for some time, and I am glad that the dialogue has developed into a draft Order so that the Commission can further deliberate and decide this important issue. The Internet is a crucial American marketplace, and I believe that it is appropriate for the FCC to safeguard it pursuant to our duties and obligations. As noted by the Chairman in his remarks this morning, clear rules of road are absolutely necessary for consumers to be protected and for broadband providers and other users of the Internet to be able to further innovate and invest. I look forward to working with the Chairman, my fellow Commissioners, and all stakeholders as we work toward achieving consensus in this proceeding.

Pictured: Commissioner Meredith Baker