FCC opens Notice of Inquiry on 3rd way internet regulation


A party-line three-two vote of the five FCC commissioners has paved the way for a notice of inquiry into the adoption of limited Title II regulatory powers with which FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski hopes to preserve an open and free internet without overburdening suppliers with excessive regulation. Of course, not everybody sees it that way.

Democratic commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn joined Genachowski in ushering the NOI forward. Republicans Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker dissented.

Comments are due 7/15/10, and reply comments are due 8/12/10.

In an overview of the NOI, FCC wrote, “Today’s action begins the process of identifying the best way forward to ensure a solid and narrowly tailored legal foundation for implementing key recommendations of the National Broadband Plan — such as refocusing the federal universal service program on promoting broadband deployment and adoption, ensuring consumers have access to relevant information about their broadband services, customer privacy, and access for people with disabilities – as well as for preserving the open Internet.”

The FCC is seeking comment on the following key issues:

* Whether the Commission’s “information service” classification of broadband Internet service remains legally sound and adequate to support effective performance of the Commission’s responsibilities;

* The legal and practical consequences of classifying broadband Internet connectivity as a “telecommunications service” to which all the requirements of Title II of the Communications Act would apply; and

* A “third way” under which the Commission would reaffirm that Internet content and applications remain generally unregulated under Title I of the Communications Act; identify the Internet connectivity service that is offered as part of wired broadband Internet service as a telecommunications service; and forbear under Section 10 of the Act from applying all provisions of Title II other than the small number that are needed to implement fundamental universal service, competition and market entry, and consumer protection policies.