The Washington Post is reporting today that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski may be leaning toward keeping broadband services deregulated, a move that industry watchdogs claim would be a Net Neutrality killer.
The buzz around Genachowski's position on broadband regulation comes as the chairman is weighing his response to a court ruling last month that found that the FCC does not have the authority to require Comcast (and other broadband providers) to treat all Internet traffic the same on its network.
That's a big victory for the providers and a blow to the FCC, which could face a legal challenge of its authority every time it tries to address a broadband policy.
The Post story cites three agency sources who say that Genachowski has not made a final decision but is leaning toward keeping things as-is. The sources told the Post that reclassifying broadband for greater regulation would be "burdensome on carriers and would deter investment." However, the chairman is also looking at making some changes that would give the FCC more teeth in overseeing some broadband policies.
Almost immediately, critics surfaced and said that FCC should take a position that best protects consumers. Among them was Josh Silver, executive director of Free Press, who issued the following statement:
We simply cannot believe that Julius Genachowski would consider going down this path. Failing to reclassify broadband means the FCC is abandoning the signature communications and technology issues of the Obama administration. 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. If Chairman Genachowski fails to re-establish the FCC authority to protect Internet users, he will be allowing companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon to slow down, block or censor content at will. They can block any website, any blog post, any tweet, any outreach by a political campaign — and the FCC would be powerless to stop them. Without reclassification, nearly every broadband-related decision the agency makes from here forward will be aggressively challenged in court, and the FCC will likely lose. The phone and cable companies know this, which is why they're going all out to keep the FCC from doing so. Genachowski should not buckle to phone and cable industry pressure, but it will take courage to stand up to one of the biggest lobbying juggernauts in Washington. It’s not too late — and the public is watching. This decision facing the FCC chairman is about more than one single issue, or even a broken promise to the American people. If the FCC fails to stand with the public, it will be the end of the Internet as we know it.