Broadband change we can believe in--or deja vu all over again?

by Jonathan Lawson, Reclaim the Media

Ever get that feeling, like it's deja vu all over again?

When the FCC held a public hearing on media consolidation in Seattle two years ago, more than 1100 people turned out to deliver a clear message: don't let big media get any bigger. But just days after that hearing, then-FCC Chairman Kevin Martin informed the readers of the New York Times that he intended to ignore the advice of Seattle (and hundreds of thousands of others). Despite giving lip support to local and diverse media, Martin knuckled under to big media companies, and went ahead with plans to dismantle more of the rules protecting media diversity.

Now there's a new Sheriff in town; the Obama administration installed Julius Genachowski as the FCC's new Chairman. Like Obama himself, Genachowski has stated his support for open Internet protections including net neutrality policies which would prevent big Internet providers like Comcast and AT&T from blocking your access to websites for commercial or political reasons. Sounds like hope and change!

Last week, FCC officials returned to Seattle to conduct a public hearing on preserving the open Internet. Once again, the FCC heard a clear message from community members--urging the Commission to reassert its authority to protect Internet users against companies who want free reign to block off parts of the Internet.

Yet once again, days later, the FCC Chairman appears not to have heard us properly. Yesterday's Washington Post reports that Genachowski is "leaning toward keeping in place the current regulatory framework for broadband services"--meaning the deregulated framework allowing Comcast and AT&T to filter access, block sites, and curtail innovation. That framework was weakened further by the recent appeals court decision (Comcast vs. FCC) which limited the FCC's authority to enforce net neutrality protections on a case-by-case basis.

Despite his stated support for open Internet policies, Genachowski now appears to be leaning towards knuckling under to Comcast and AT&T. It feels a bit like deja vu all over again.

The FCC has a clear, clean and simple way to get out of this mess, even if Chairman Genachowski is leaning against it. The FCC deregulated broadband in the last decade by classifying it as a deregulated "information" service (like one-way cable TV) rather than a "tenecommunications" service (like the telephone system).

The FCC can reverse that bad decision with the stroke of a pen--they can simply reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service. That's a commonsense solution, one that FCC Commissioner Michael Copps recently said would be "not extreme, not radical. It's called going back to basics. It's called consumer protection 101." In Seattle, Reclaim the Media delivered to the FCC a letter from 34 media and social justice organizations nationwide, asking Chairman Genachowski to secure a fair and open Internet by reclassifying broadband.

But we need to speak up louder--we need to hold Genachowski and the Obama Administration accountable to their stated support for an fair and open Internet, including strong net neutrality protections.

Want to let the FCC know that you care too much about the future of the Internet to hand it over to Comcast and AT&T? Call or email Chairman Julius Genachowski at (202) 418.1000 and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn at (202) 418.2100. Politely let them know that we need an open Internet, and that reclassifying broadband as a Title II/communications service is important to our communities.

Please cc your emails to info@reclaimthemedia.org -- and please help Reclaim the Media fight for digital justice by becoming a sustaining member!

article originally published at Reclaim the Media.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey