Legislation and Regulation

Appeals court strikes down FCC restrictions on broadcast indecency

Jim Puzzanghera, LA Times

A federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down the government's longstanding prohibition against indecency on broadcast television and radio, ruling that the policy was "unconstitutionally vague" and created a "chilling effect" that violated the 1st Amendment protection of free speech.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York is a major victory for the broadcast TV networks, which jointly sued the Federal Communications Commission in 2006 in the wake of a tougher crackdown on indecency over the airwaves.

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Inslee leads letter calling on FCC to preserve a free and open Internet

Office of Rep. Jay Inslee

This week, Rep. Jay Inslee responded to constituent concerns by sending a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, urging the FCC to follow through with reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service. Reversing a radical, deregulatory change made during the previous administration, reclassification will preserve the FCC's authority to enforce long-recognized rules treating all data equally, and will allow the FCC to implement its National Broadband Plan, bringing broadband service to millions of underserved Americans. The letter was signed by thirty-two members of Congress (full text below).

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FCC seeks comment on broadband reclassification

Marguerite Reardon, CNet

The Federal Communications Commission has taken the first step toward figuring out how it's going to regulate broadband after losing an important legal battle earlier this year.

At an open meeting Thursday, the FCC voted to open a proceeding that seeks comment on three options for redefining the FCC's role in regulating broadband. The FCC is asking for comments on these new proposals, which it hopes will put it on firmer legal footing, after a federal appeals court ruled in April that the agency did not have authority to sanction Comcast for violating Net neutrality principles. Comcast had been caught throttling BitTorrent transfers on its network.

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FCC moves to expand role in protecting broadband rights

Edward Wyatt, New York Times

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3 to 2 on Thursday to move toward giving itself the authority to regulate the transmission component of broadband Internet service, a power the commission’s majority believes is central to expanding the availability of broadband.

The vote formally begins a period of public comment on an F.C.C. proposal to overturn a previous commission ruling that classified broadband transmission as a lightly regulated information service.

The proposal would designate broadband transmission as a telecommunications service, which, as with telephone service, would make it subject to stricter regulation.

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Kerry, Dems defend FCC action on broadband

Harold Feld, Public Knowledge

Dems on the Hill are waking up to round two on the fight over the future of broadband. Specifically, Senators Kerry (D-MA), Cantwell (D-WA), Udall (D-NM) and Wyden (D-OR) sent this letter to Senators Inouye (D-HI) and Cochran (R-MS) -- the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriation Committee -- arguing that no one should use the appropriations process to prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from moving forward with its proposed Notice Of Inquiry (NOI) asking what to do for legal authority for the National Broadband Plan and to protect consumers now that the U.S. Appeals Court for the D.C. Circuit has gutted the FCC's previous theory of authority. Here's the money quote:

"Seeking public comment on all available approaches is a reasonable and responsible way to move forward and we should give it increased clarity and definition through the legislative process. Congress should not block its consideration. The Communication Act articulates and gives life to the idea that our communications networks should be open, accessible, ubiquitous, and affordable. Those values did not die with the invention of the Internet nor did the Commission's responsibility to act on them."

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FCC needs to rethink broadband regulation

Wally Bowen, Asheville Citizen-Times

Eight years ago on March 14, 2002, the five-member Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to weaken its regulatory authority over broadband Internet access via a cable modem.

The FCC press release that day predicted that the unusual move “will promote broadband deployment, which should result in better quality, lower prices and more choices for consumers.”

The vote split along party lines: Republicans, led by FCC Chairman Michael Powell, voting for; the two Democrats voting against.

The vote reclassified cable broadband from a “telecommunication” to an “information” service, thus exempting cable broadband access from “common carrier” obligations which have governed the nation's telecommunications since the days of the telegraph.

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Some clarity in war over Internet access

Tyrone Brown, Media Access Project

The fight over open access to the Internet has turned into a public relations war and a political football in Congress.

Last month, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced his proposal to clarify the agency's authority to oversee the likes of AT&T, Verizon and Comcast in their critical roles as providers of transport links to high-speed Internet access. His approach has strong support from fellow Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn.

Since that announcement, opponents of his proposal have recruited proxies to mount a major disinformation campaign. Separate groups of Democratic and Republican congressmen have communicated their opposition to the proposal while others in Congress have supported it. Civil liberties and civil rights groups have weighed in for or against the proposal, depending on whether they see it as promoting or slowing broadband deployment and adoption.

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They don’t speak for all minorities on Net Neutrality

Craig Settles, The Hill

In the net neutrality debate, several leading civil rights organizations have come down heavily against net neutrality, as have some members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Do not assume that they speak for all people of color or for all low-income individuals in urban or rural areas.

I do not belittle or demonize those champions of many noble battles past and yet to come. However, I vigorously disagree with their position on this particular issue, and adamantly reject the assumption that it’s in minority constituents’ best interests for Congress to oppose net neutrality. As a minority business owner who also specializes in broadband strategy, and has spent years assessing the efforts of people working directly with those abandoned across the digital divide, I have a valid perspective.

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GOP Reps sign misleading letter opposing open Internet

Public Knowledge

Earlier today, 171 of 177 House Republicans signed a letter opposing the proposed actions of the Federal Communications Commission to ensure economic growth and to protect consumers.

Public Knowledge president Gigi B. Sohn responded with the following statement:

Today's House letter, combined with that signed by 74 Democrats a couple of days ago, is nothing more than a demonstration of the unparalleled political and lobbying muscle of the telecommunications industry. The biggest companies are spending millions and millions of dollars to buy this Congress. AT&T spent $6 million in the first quarter of this year alone.


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Big media and the FCC roadshow: controlling the message online and off

Brandy Doyle, Huffington Post

The FCC is coming to Silicon Valley. The famously old-school agency will make an unlikely visit to the high tech mecca, asking if "legacy media" (radio, television, and newspapers) even matter in the Internet age. More specifically, the FCC will ask an expert panel whether we still need the media ownership rules designed to protect democracy by preventing media monopolies and consolidation.

Gathering at Stanford University on Friday, May 21, media execs will claim that in the age of blogging and Twitter, we have millions of news sources to choose from. In this utopia of media diversity, everyone is a journalist and every point of view can be heard. According to big media, if the FCC wants to help out, they should forget about local ownership limits and just finish the job of deregulation.

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