Legislation and Regulation

Rep. Waters announces support for Comcast-NBC merger hearings

Office of Rep. Maxine Waters

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) announced today that 23 additional Members of Congress signed on to her letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski, urging the FCC to hold public hearings on the merger of the Comcast Corporation with NBC Universal (NBC). The original letter, sent last week, was signed by Congresswoman Waters and 45 of her colleagues. It included a series of questions about diversity, distribution, cable rates, labor relations and advertising for Comcast and NBC to answer.

The additional signatures, sent to the FCC in an addendum letter today, further reflect the geographically, ideologically and racially diverse group of Members of Congress who all recognize that a merger of this size Comcast is the largest provider of internet and cable in the country will affect virtually every American and therefore deserves thorough scrutiny through a public hearings process.

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GOP bill aims to slow or stop FCC broadband reclassification

Grant Gross, IDG News Service

A U.S. lawmaker has introduced legislation to require the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to deliver a detailed cost-benefit analysis to Congress before moving forward with a plan to reclassify broadband as a regulated common-carrier service.
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The bill, authored by Representative Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican, would also require the FCC to conduct a market study to show “market failure” in the broadband industry before moving forward with the plan to reclassify broadband.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s plan to reclassify broadband as a regulated service is a mistake, Stearns said at a press conference Tuesday organized by Americans for Prosperity, an antiregulation advocacy group. The effort will hurt the FCC’s goal of making broadband available to all U.S. residents, he said.

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Washington UTC may penalize Qwest for consumer protection violations

via the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission:

Qwest faces stiff fines for repeatedly disobeying state rules

State regulatory staff today recommended $69,000 in penalties against Qwest, saying the phone company repeatedly violated numerous consumer protection regulations in 2009.

Staff members of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) recommended the fine, alleging that Qwest failed to comply with UTC rules designed to protect telephone customers in Washington. A commission administrative law judge will review the matter and decide whether to impose penalties.

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FCC chair to unveil Internet oversight plans

Joe Flint, LA Times

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski on Thursday will disclose the agency's much-anticipated approach to regulating the Internet.

The move comes in the wake of a recent decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the FCC overstepped its bounds when it chastised broadband provider Comcast Corp. for impeding some of its customers from using the file-sharing service BitTorrent because it is a so-called bandwidth hog and slows down the Internet for everyone.

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Genachowkski plans to reclassify portions of broadband to assert FCC authority over Internet access

Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission will announce Thursday a way for the agency to better assert its authority over broadband services. An FCC official said in a statement that its move will be somewhere between deregulation, the state of broadband services today, and a more regulatory approach.

Legal experts interpreted the statement to say that portions of broadband under a classification of telecommunications services are firmly under the FCC's authority, with a plan to strip many rules that apply to phone services from broadband.

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FCC should keep options open on web rules, two Democrats say

Todd Shields, Business Week

The Federal Communications Commission should consider all options to retain authority over Internet services after a U.S. court restricted regulators’ powers, two Democratic lawmakers said. Representative Henry Waxman of California and Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, who head each chamber’s commerce committee, said they may back an Internet law giving the agency more power, according to a letter today to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

“It is essential for the commission to have oversight” and protect an open Internet, the lawmakers said in a statement. The FCC should consider placing Internet services under the rules applied to telephone companies, they said.

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Microsoft warns against strong definition of net neutrality

Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

I dug a bit more today and found some interesting nuggets in Microsoft’s comments about the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed net neutrality rules.

The software giant, long a proponent of open Internet policies, isn’t as keen on some portions of a proposed rule by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski that would restrict any discrimination of Web traffic or applications by broadband access providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon.

Microsoft didn’t take a position on the FCC’s legal authority over broadband services. Microsoft said it favored better enforcement of guidelines for how Internet access providers handle traffic on their networks. And it said the FCC needed more investigation into whether it should include wireless network providers in new rules. Wireless providers argue that their networks have capacity constraints unlike those of fixed-wire broadband providers and shouldn't be subject to the same rules.

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Clearwire departs from industry take on net neutrality

Brad Reed, Network World

While most wireless carriers have fiercely opposed the imposition of network neutrality standards on wireless data networks, WiMAX wholesaler Clearwire is taking a decidedly different approach.

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FCC panelists: Net neutrality protects innovation and freedom

Nick Eaton, Microsoft Blog/Seattle P-I

Failure to regulate the Internet and preserve net neutrality would thwart innovation and endanger the already-fragile U.S. economy, several experts told the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday.

Unfortunately, a district court last week said the FCC doesn't have the power to prohibit Internet service providers from restricting access to specific websites, raising questions over the agency's ability to regulate the Internet. Now the FCC is trying to perhaps reclassify Internet-protocol (IP) communications as telecommunications, or find some other way around the ruling.

"An Internet in the dark runs too great a risk of becoming a closed Internet," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a video statement before an FCC workshop Wednesday at the Jackson Federal Building in downtown Seattle. Most panelists at the event agreed.

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Genachowski vows to continue net neutrality push

John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Wednesday pledged to keep the faith when it comes to taking steps to insure network neutrality, court case or no.

At opening remarks for an open internet field hearing in Seattle, Wash., the chairman pointed out that it was only down the road a piece in Hillsboro, Ore., that Comcast's secret blocking of "lawful Internet traffic" was discovered.

That discovery, and others, he said "made clear that an Internet in the dark runs too great a risk of becoming a closed Internet -- with substantial costs to our ability to lead the world in innovation and freedom."

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