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Genachowski to show net neutrality cards tomorrow

It could be today's leaks are a head fake, meant to tell the President's supporters that everything is going to be OK while in fact doing nothing that might hurt the companies that control your access to this Web page.
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Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

CBS says he will. The Washington Post says he won't.

FCC chair Julius Genachowski (right) has set himself up for some microphone love tomorrow, when he is expected to defy the lobby and institute some "Title II" rules on the Internet, aiming to guarantee net neutrality.

So the leakers say (even, now, the Posts') but we're not talking about a "nuclear option" of Internet regulation.

The U.S. Appeals Court had issued a ruling denying the agency's authority to keep the Bells and cable companies from blackmailing sites for transiting data to "their" captive customers.

The actual Genachowski proposal is expected to use "forbearance" to cancel most of the rules carriers have to follow under Title II, including the requirement that they wholesale capacity.

Wholesaling would be the real nuclear option -- a regulatory regime found in many parts of Europe (which have better broadband than we do) and which was envisioned by the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

In the past Comcast and the Bells have threatened to stop investing in their networks if they have to wholesale, even though re-sellers would presumably be handing them cash for doing nothing.

So don't celebrate.

Genachowski also has to get a majority of his five-member commission on his side and President Obama's other Democratic appointee, Mignon Clyburn (daughter of the powerful Rep. James Clyburn) was said to be an opponent of neutrality when she was nominated a year ago.

Another reason for caution. Counselor Colin Crowell, who helped Genachowski craft his original rules on net neutrality, said yesterday he's leaving.

So it could be today's leaks are a head fake, meant to tell the President's supporters that everything is going to be OK while in fact doing nothing that might hurt the companies that control your access to this Web page.

When whatever decision gets announced tomorrow, check the fine print. And watch carefully to see if the hearts of the Bells and Comcast people are really in their condemnations.

So far, Scott Cleland doesn't seem to think the roof is caving in. In fact, his latest word on the subject is that if his friends don't like the Title II rules, they'll just go back to court.

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