Talk about waving a red flag at a bull — the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is asking if ILECs should be held to certain broadband services restrictions.

FCC says it is taking comments on current regulations and restrictions on ILECs' broadband services. The FCC's move comes as the U.S. House of Representatives decided to hold off its vote on the Tauzin-Dingell bill until March.

Key in the new review are whether restrictions on Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers' phone services also apply to broadband services. The FCC is taking comments on what changes it should make, if any, in "its traditional regulatory requirements of the incumbent LECs' broadband services," it says.

The FCC will ask about relevant product and geographic markets for broadband services; ILECs' market power in those areas; and whether ILECs' provision of service should have any restrictions.

A prolific Michael K. Powell, FCC chief, says in a statement that the notice of proposed rulemaking acts as a way to look at how regulation affects broadband deployment. "It is, in that sense, not a signpost heralding a new direction, but an attempt to add yet another arrow to the regulatory quiver we will use to attack and, in conjunction with other forces outside our purview, eventually subdue the broadband beast," he says.

Lest anyone feel the arrow headed for one's back, both Powell and FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps weighed in with assurances the move won't undermine efforts toward competition.

Powell says the "proceeding should not suggest a grand departure from our ongoing efforts to implement unbundling, co-location and other market-opening requirements with respect to (ILECs)" and regulatory restrictions.

"Let the record show … that if our proceedings should ever turn into an attempt to undermine the competitive framework that Congress adopted in the 1996 Act, I will — without hesitation — oppose such overreaching," Copps says. He also cautioned that the agency wasn't a policymaker and that "setting competition policy is the exclusive jurisdiction of Congress."