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FCC Commissioner Baker Criticizes Chairman’s Plan

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WASHINGTON, June 10, 2010  – Federal Communications Commission member Meredith Baker criticized a regulatory recommendation offered by her agency’s chairman, saying it’s draining resources from dealing with the National Broadband Plan and that it’s not a bipartisan effort.

In a keynote speech at the Pike and Fischer Broadband Policy Summit, Baker said she disagreed with Chairman Julius Genachowski’s move to seek greater regulatory authority over the internet with his “Third Way” proposal that would classify broadband as a more-regulated telecommunications service.

Baker reminded her audience not to forget about economic principles, how competitive markets protect consumers, and pointed out how classification would hinder investment at a time when the market is on the brink of explosive growth and cannot afford to turn away a single investor.

She admitted that communications law needed some revision, but said a bipartisan commission should make those changes and urged that Congress be tasked with making communications classifications, not the FCC.

Baker outlined five problems with the chairman’s plan.

First, the assumption that the internet is a collection of “dumb pipes,” or a single access denies the versatility and variety of interfaces already created. Baker named Amazon’s Kindle among the technology defying classification – is it an e-reader or an application that turns pages?

Second, Baker said 120 million people currently have a 3G connection, opposing the chairman’s claim that there was not enough competition in the broadband market.

Third, Baker said that Title 2 debased any regulatory certainty the country had in Title 1. “Title 1 produced solid results,” said Baker, adding that companies could no longer depend on a stable rules platform from which to launch new ventures.

Fourth, the Title 2 approach to regulation has its own legal risks, greater so than Title 1 Baker said.

Lastly, the international community is watching our every move, she said, and a move to regulate could be used as a pretense to closing the Internet in other parts of the world.

Baker opposed the path being taken, but agreed that change and adaptation was needed in the broadband industry. She urged her audience to find a bipartisan solution.

Separately, she applauded the efforts of the new Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group. She said its formation is a good step that would help solve issues surrounding network neutrality.

David Cup is working at BroadbandBreakfast.com through an internship with the National Journalism Center. A student at the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, he is pursuing the majors of Political Science and Journalism. He has worked on his school yearbook and written for the Franciscan Sports Information Department.

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