Legislation and Regulation

FCC must reassert broadband authority, say social justice organizations

Reclaim the Media

SEATTLE - On April 27, a national coalition of social justice and media advocacy organizations delivered to the Federal Communications Commission an open letter urging chairman Julius Genachowski to act quickly to reassert the agency's authority to regulate broadband in the public interest. The letter comes in the wake of a federal appeals court decision which dealt a blow to that authority, and at a time when the FCC is in the midst of a broad range of policymaking activities focused on improving and broadening the Internet experience for millions of Americans.

The letter, signed by thirty-four national and regional organizations affiliated or allied with the Media Action Grassroots Network, points out that persistent digital divides continue to threaten the economic and political well being of communities of color, and that these communities have particular need for protection against telecommunications providers who have historically been unwilling to prioritize equal service for all communities, despite a deregulated economic environment and often massive profits.

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Time for FCC to reclassify broadband to ensure Internet remains a democratic medium

Tim Karr, Seattle Times

TO be or not to be? That is the question weighing heavily on the Federal Communications Commission officials who visit Seattle this week for a public workshop on the future of the Internet and their agency's role in it.

There will be much to discuss. Earlier this month, a federal court ruled that the FCC lacked the authority to protect users' unfettered access to the most important communications medium of the 21st century.

The ruling caught the FCC in a regulatory limbo. The agency is now trying to sort out its authority to stop companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from "managing" the Web in ways that undermine the openness that has made it so user-friendly.

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Civil rights groups tell the FCC: social justice requires an open Internet

Media Action Grassroots Network et al.

This week, Reclaim the Media's national coalition, the Media Action Grassroots Network (MAG-Net) joined with dozens of civil rights organizations across the country, in urging the Federal Communications Commission to preserve open Internet policies and reassert its authority to protect consumer and citizen rights online.

Read more for a summary and complete text of the comments filed this week. National organizations joining the comments include the Applied Research Center, Color of Change, Presente, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the Mational Association of Hispanic Journalists, Native Public Media and the Rural Broadband Coalition. Washington State organizations supporting MAG-Net's digital justice call for open Internet rules include Reclaim the Media, the ACLU of Washington, the Seattle Minority Executive Directors Coalition, One America, KBCS, the Youth Media Institute, WashPIRG, Washington Bus, Hidmo Eritrean Cuisine, Common Language Project, Ozya, Reel Grrls, Hollow Earth Radio, Sustainable Ballard, NOW Seattle, Community Alliance & Peacemaking Project, Community Alliance for Global Justice, Langston Hughes Film Festival, and Newground Social Investment.

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Academics call for US to adopt EU Internet access regs - fine with us!

Gigi Sohn, Public Knowledge

The New York Times recently ran an op-ed by 5 academics urging the FCC to adopt European Union (EU)-style transparency regulation rather than so-called “heavy-handed” net neutrality regulation that would ensure that US telephone and cable companies providing Internet access don’t pick winners and losers. In an argument we hear often from those companies, the academics suggest that so long as a consumer knows what its Internet access provider is doing, the customer can simply change providers if he or she doesn’t like it.

What the authors conveniently fail to mention is that competition is robust in many EU countries because of regulatory policies that require an Internet access provider to share its facilities with competitors. The Berkman Center at Harvard Law School pointed this out in its comprehensive, but largely ignored (by the FCC) report that looked at broadband deployment and adoption around the world. The United Kingdom, France, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden are among the EU countries cited in the report that have adopted “open access” policies.

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The FCC and the Internet

New York Times

Editorial: With the Internet fast becoming the most important communications channel, it is untenable for the United States not to have a regulator to ensure nondiscriminatory access, guarantee interconnectivity among rival networks and protect consumers from potential abuse.

Yet that’s exactly where the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit left us all when it said this month that the Federal Communications Commission didn’t have the authority to regulate the Internet — and specifically, could not force the cable giant Comcast to stop blocking peer-to-peer sites.

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Net neutrality is up to Congress

Seattle Times

THE fight for open, equal access to the Internet shifts to Congress, after a federal appeals court Tuesday ruled the Federal Communications Commission could not impose the requirement.

[Seattle Times editorial]

This is a setback, but not the end to providing legally binding language that all users of the Internet, and the content it circulates, are treated equally by network providers.

If the courts found the administrative authority of the FCC inadequate, then it falls to lawmakers to pass legislation that puts the commission in firm control of the nation's broadband system. This Internet highway, this pipeline of information — pick your metaphor — has to stay open. That is a political imperative that crosses all partisan lines.

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FCC may not need Congress to reverse Appeals Court ruling on Internet regulation

David Dayen, FireDogLake

While the DC Circuit Court ruling on the FCC’s regulation of net neutrality and broadband Internet would appear to require legislative action for reversal, a key litigator in the case tells FDL News that the FCC could, if they chose, work through the ruling on their own by reversing some of the policies of the Bush Administration which sought to deregulate the online space.

I spoke with Marvin Ammori, who argued for the intervenors, Free Press, before the DC Circuit, against Comcast, who brought the case. Ammori argued in the case that the FCC had the statutory authority under the “ancillary jurisdiction” of various communications networks to regulate broadband, but the three-judge panel headed by Clinton appointee David S. Tatel disagreed.

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DC Circuit Court rules against FCC's authority to regulate net neutrality

Cecilia Kang, Washington Post

Comcast on Tuesday won a legal challenge against the Federal Communications Commission, in a ruling by a federal court that undermines the agency's ability to regulate Internet service providers.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the FCC lacked the authority to require Comcast, the nation's biggest broadband services provider, to treat all Internet traffic equally on its network.

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Court lifts stay on media ownership rules--consolidation can go ahead

John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has vacated its stay of the media ownership rules and set a briefing schedule beginning May 17.

Back in December, the court gave the FCC and backers of its position three weeks to explain why it should not lift the years-long stay on the commission's media ownership rule rewrite and start hearing the legal challenges.

The court has now decided to proceed with the case despite FCC requests that it allow the commission to review the rules first.

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Protecting Internet freedom will close the digital divide. Period. End of story.

Garlin Gilchrist II, Save the Internet

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski took questions via YouTube about the recently-released National Broadband Plan (NBP). One question posed to the chairman was about whether the plan would close the digital divide and be beneficial to low-income communities and people of color anxious to get online.

Chairman Genachowski’s response (video) was absolutely right that this plan, along with the FCC's other efforts to promote universal broadband Internet access and protect Internet freedom, will benefit everyone, especially those excluded from today's market.

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