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FCC Holds Closed-Door Talks on Broadband Reclassification

in Net Neutrality by

WASHINGTON, August 2, 2010 - The Federal Communications Commission on Saturday held another set of closed door meetings with major stakeholders to discuss the potential reclassification of broadband. These closed sessions had been occurring all week with Verizon, Google, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and others.

Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. is reporting that “there’s a decent chance a deal could be struck, but we stress that major open issues remain on key details and the timing of an announcement. There appear to still be significant differences over whether or how wireless should be covered by net neutrality, and on the details of the interrelated issues of nondiscrimination, paid prioritization, managed/special services, and quality-of-service guarantees. There’s talk of a consent decree, but enforcement remains a key issue, particularly given skepticism that Congress would pass targeted legislation to clarify the FCC authority anytime soon.”

Congressional officials also have begun to weigh in on the situation. Reps. Ben Chandler, D-Ky., and Alan Grayson, D-Fla., sent letters to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski opposing the reclassification effort. Both congressmen said any reclassification should be done via congressional action not FCC rulemaking. Grayson’s letter said: “If the FCC strays outside the statutory boundaries established by Congress, the results can be profoundly anti-democratic."

On Friday, Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, introduced a resolution which would direct the FCC to wait for Congress to act prior to reclassification. The full text of the resolution has not been published.

According to a statement issued by Green’s office, the resolution “expresses the sense of Congress that a law should be enacted to provide guidance to the FCC before the Commission continues current proceedings to issue new regulations. Allowing Congress to pass targeted legislation will permit the FCC to work within the law to establish authority. If the FCC pushes through with a regulatory restructuring, it will create market uncertainty, reduce employment, and harm investment and innovation.”

Rep. Green said, “If the FCC continues its pursuit of reclassification, the certain result will be lengthy court battles that will reduce, or even halt, capital investments and effectively cease the improvement and expansion of access to the unserved and underserved areas of the country.”

The resolution has 17 Democrats and 24 Republicans as co-sponsors.

Rahul Gaitonde has been writing for since the fall of 2009, and in May of 2010 he became Deputy Editor. He was a fellow at George Mason University’s Long Term Governance Project, a researcher at the International Center for Applied Studies in Information Technology and worked at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. He holds a Masters of Public Policy from George Mason University, where his research focused on the economic and social benefits of broadband expansion. He has written extensively about Universal Service Fund reform, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Data Improvement Act

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