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CTIA, Free Press at Odds Over FCC Move

Thu, 09/02/2010 - 8:35am
Brian Santo & Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

The Federal Communications Commission is putting off its decision on whether and how to reassert authority over the broadband market.

Technically, the FCC is seeking public input on what rules should apply to wireless Internet access and specialized services that aren't part of the Internet but are delivered over wired broadband connections.

The FCC was on track to make a determination on how to classify broadband, and how to impose network neutrality rules by its meeting in late September. The decision ot open public comment in effect delays that decision until the commission's subsequent meeting in November.

The FCC's notice raises questions about how network neutrality principles can be upheld under different regulatory scenarios.

NCTA CEO Kyle McSlarrow said the notice "raises important and complex issues and we will provide our input."

The wireless sector is particularly agitated by the possibility of the FCC asserting its authority over broadband. Verizon, AT&T (and Google) insist wireless broadband should be exempt from network neutrality rules, although everybody else should be subject to such rules.

CTIA and media reform nonprofit Free Press continued to find themselves at odds over the FCC's proposed net neutrality regulations after the agency asked for further comments on the issue in a notice yesterday.

The FCC is seeking further comment on several areas in its net neutrality proposal, including how openness principles should apply to mobile broadband.

CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent said the association was "pleased" with the public notice. "We are happy the Chairman and the Commissioners realize that wireless is different," he said in a statement. "We will continue to work with them to explain why these rules are unnecessary and should not be applied to the wireless ecosystem."

Not surprisingly, Free Press had a different reaction, saying it was time for the FCC "to stop writing notices and start making clear rules of the road."

"The phone and cable companies have shown us what the Internet will look like if they are allowed to write their own rules and build a two-tiered Internet with fast and slow lanes and zero protections on mobile broadband," said Free Press Research Director S. Derek Turner in a statement.

Free Press urged the FCC to move forward with its proposal to reclassify broadband Internet services under Title II of the Communications Act, which came about after the FCC lost a court case that undermined its authority to regulate broadband Internet service. The agency believes the reclassification will help it reassert its authority.

The wireless industry wants to see the agency forbear from applying net neutrality regulations to mobile broadband, arguing that spectrum-based services require network management techniques that would be disallowed under the FCC's proposed rules.

A recent joint recommendation from Google and Verizon proposed the FCC forbear entirely from applying net neutrality rules to mobile broadband services. The proposal was widely vilified by net neutrality advocates, including Free Press.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement that the agency would continue to be "vigilant in guarding against threats to Internet freedom."

"We will be focused on a vision of a ubiquitous and super fast Internet, with flourishing entrepreneurship and vibrant start-ups, and massive private investment in Internet infrastructure, content, and services - an Internet that is an engine for our economy, and provides a world of knowledge and free speech accessible to all," he said.

Comments on the inquiry are due 30 days after its publication in the federal register, with reply comments due 25 days later. The inquiry is filed under GN Docket No. 09-191 and WC Docket No. 07-52.

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