Commentary

Report: FCC Set For Net Neutrality Push When Congress On Turkey Break

The Federal Communications Commission is reportedly gearing up once again to tackle net neutrality.

A report today in Politico says that the FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is readying a proposal based on one floated earlier this year by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). Waxman attempted to gain bi-partisan consensus for a bill that would require wireline broadband providers to refrain from discriminating or prioritizing traffic for the next two years.

Politico says the FCC is aiming to move by Wednesday -- in part because many in Congress will be away for Thanksgiving and, therefore, less likely to immediately push back.

The report comes the same week that Genachowski said at a conference in San Francisco that he still backed neutrality laws. In that same speech, he also, bizarrely, cast blame on Google and Verizon for having "slowed down some processes that were leading to a resolution" by issuing their own neutrality proposal in August.

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Neutrality advocates condemned the Google-Verizon blueprint -- which would have prohibited Internet service providers from degrading or prioritizing traffic that currently travels over the public Internet, but allowed them to create an online fast lane for services like telemedicine, advanced educational services and new entertainment offerings. Google and Verizon proposed exempting wireless carriers from non-discrimination principles.

Critics countered that wireless carriers should also follow neutrality rules, and that creating fast lanes for specialized services could create a two-tiered Internet, where companies willing to pay extra would get special, high-speed traffic lanes, while smaller business would be consigned to a slower Internet

Still, while the Google-Verizon proposal disappointed many neutrality advocates, two private companies obviously have no power to prevent the FCC from pursuing its own agenda. Had Genachowski wanted to forge ahead with neutrality rules, he didn't need advance buy-in from Google and Verizon.

Of course, Genachowski might well have feared that acting without industry support would trigger a backlash. Then again, so will any neutrality rules that truly limit ISPs' power to discriminate.

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