Federal Communications Commission to impose some new regulations on broadband

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

FCC to impose some new regulations on broadband

WASHINGTON — Federal regulators plan to impose some additional rules on broadband providers to ensure the government has authority to move ahead with a sweeping plan to bring high-speed connections to all Americans.

Regulators also want to ensure they have jurisdiction to impose so-called “network neutrality” rules requiring phone and cable companies to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their broadband networks.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski on Thursday plans to lay out a roadmap for regulating broadband. This step has been eagerly anticipated since a federal court ruling last month cast doubt on the agency’s authority over high-speed Internet access.

The FCC now regulates broadband as a lightly regulated “information service” and had maintained that this gave it legal authority to act on its national broadband plan, which it released in March, and to mandate net neutrality. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected this argument.

Since then, the FCC has been trying to decide whether to reclassify broadband as a more heavily regulated telecommunications service, which would be subject to “common carrier” obligations to share networks and treat all traffic equally.

Late Wednesday, the agency said it will seek a “third way” approach that strikes a balance between “weak” rules for information services and “needlessly burdensome” rules for telecommunications services. This approach, the FCC said, would apply a “small handful” of telecommunications regulations on broadband providers and would include “meaningful boundaries to guard against regulatory overreach.”

The commission is trying to craft a compromise that will satisfy big phone and cable companies that strongly oppose any additional rules, and public interest groups that have been calling on the agency to regulate broadband as a traditional telecommunications service.

The FCC said the new approach is also intended to “restore the status quo as it existed prior to the court decision.”

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