FCC Seeks Comment On Google-Verizon Neutrality Plan

The Federal Communications Commission is taking the Google-Verizon neutrality proposal seriously enough to solicit comments on the most controversial aspects of the plan: whether neutrality rules should apply to wireless broadband providers and whether companies should be allowed to create fast lanes for specialized services, including telemedicine, distance learning and entertainment.

"Recent events have highlighted questions on how open Internet rules should apply to 'specialized' services and to mobile broadband -- what framework will guarantee Internet freedom and openness, and maximize private investment and innovation," FCC Chair Julius Genachowski said today in a statement. "Even a proposal that accepts enforceable rules can be flawed in its specifics and risk undermining the fundamental goal of preserving the open Internet."

Genachowski went on to state that the FCC's wireline and wireless bureaus are seeking comment on issues relating to wireless broadband and managed services.

While there's no harm in seeking public opinion, the FCC already has a wealth of comments on these very issues. In the 10 months since the FCC sought comment on proposed neutrality rules, companies have repeatedly weighed on the various possibilities and their potential ramifications.

Given the detailed record that's been built since last October, some observers suspect that the FCC is attempting to stall, making decisions until after this year's mid-term elections. Although the agency is independent, some people say the commissioners don't want to rock the boat this close to an election.

Neutrality advocates nonetheless are urging the FCC to follow through with a plan to reclassify broadband access as a Title II telecommunications service -- a necessary first step to imposing neutrality rules. "We expect the Commission will move quickly to set the legal framework for the FCC to oversee broadband Internet access services, with specific rules to protect the open Internet to follow soon after," Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn said in a statement.

S. Derek Turner, research director at Free Press, likewise urged the FCC to reclassify broadband access as soon as possible. "The time for asking questions that they've already asked is over," he tells MediaPost. "The time for action is now."

The FCC is expected to decide by tomorrow whether to consider reclassification at its September meeting.

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