Waxman Bill Could Strip FCC Of Power To Reclassify Broadband

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Rep. Henry Waxman reportedly is readying legislation that would require wired broadband providers to follow neutrality principles for at least two years, but would also strip the Federal Communications Commission of the ability to reclassify broadband access as a "telecommunications service."

A draft of the measure, which surfaced online on Tech Daily Dose late Monday, also would exempt wireless carriers from some key neutrality rules.

Specifically, the bill provides that wired Internet access providers can't block lawful content, applications or services and also can't unreasonably discriminate in transmitting traffic. It also contains an exception for "reasonable network management" techniques.

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Wireless providers would only be banned from preventing consumers from visiting lawful sites and from blocking lawful applications that compete with voice or video communications services.

The measure states that the FCC would be able to fine broadband providers up to $2 million for intentional violations of the law. The statute also would expire at the end of 2012.

If enacted, the bill would completely scuttle the FCC's ability to craft neutrality rules by preventing the agency from reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act. Currently, broadband is categorized as an information service; a federal appellate court ruled earlier this year that the FCC lacks authority to enforce neutrality rules because broadband is considered an information service.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski responded to that ruling by proposing that broadband access be reclassified as a telecommunications service, subject to some common carrier rules.

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