FCC Chief Clarifies Position Ahead of Broadband Plan Unveiling

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News Posted: Wed, Feb 10 2010 9:35 PM
The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Julius Genachowski has been much in the news over the past six months. As we've covered in the past, Genachowski has aggressively stumped for a national broadband policy, traveled the country, and under his direction the FCC has solicited comments from corporations and citizens alike. Last fall, the chairman took a stance in favor of net neutrality. With roughly a month to go until the FCC reveals its policy recommendations, Genachowski is trying to clarify what he believes the role of the FCC should and shouldn't be in the years ahead.

"I don’t see any circumstances where we’d take steps to regulate the Internet itself," Genachowski said Tuesday, during a meeting with Wall Street Journal reporters and editors. “I’ve been clear repeatedly that we’re not going to regulate the Internet." Genachowski's comments, however, specifically refer to the content of the Internet. When it comes to the idea of regulating the ISPs and content providers, the FCC chairman acknowledges the possibility that some intervention might be necessary, particularly if the future of net neutrality is at stake. "The communications line piece is something that we have historic responsibility for (in) promoting competition and promoting innovation," Genachowski said, "So that is the distinction."

Genachowski's stance has alarmed companies like AT&T and Comcast, who would like to see the Internet divided into tiers with various access priorities marketed to consumers who would then pay more or less depending on which services they wanted and how quickly they wanted them. AT&T made waves last fall when it suggested that gaming could be a premium 'pay to play' type of service (provided you wanted decent framerates). The FCC, unsurprisingly, has been less-than enthused.

Regardless of their differing stances on net neutrality, the Internet providers and the FCC are going to need to work together to solve certain broadband access problems. Genachowski has made it clear that extending service across the entire US is a goal of his, including those areas where carriers have avoided offering much due to low population densitities or less-than ideal terrain. After the Communications Act of 1934 was passed, the FCC worked hand-in-glove with AT&T for several decades to ensure that telephone service came to unprofitable areas with the cost being subsidized by profits in other markets. The situation today is vastly more complex; it's hard to predict if the FCC would be willing to blink on the issue of a neutral Internet in exchange for cooperation in boosting network access and lowering basic access costs.
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rapid1 replied on Thu, Feb 11 2010 1:14 PM

This has always confused me. Why is wireless never discussed or mentioned by the government when speaking on nation wide coverage. Yes if the option is there I like my hardwired internet connection due to enhanced speed and abilities. However; if I was in a remote area I would much rather have a somewhat lesser (at least in speed up/down and a few other things) connection than no connection at all. Mind you the internet did start for me on a phone line modem anyway, which even wireless internet puts to shame in general. Either way for companies or the government it would be relatively inexpensive to blanket the nation with wireless internet. Much less if used specifically in specialized area where hard wire connections are harder to implement due to terrain or numbers of connections (being to low for fiscal cost's). So it seems rather uneducated in the least to not put this into a wide usage implementation in the US. As it would be cost advantageous and blanket the whole country with ease. Then the areas where wiring schemes are in place, easily attainable, or greatly wanted (and therefore fiscally attractive to providers) they can and will be an active part of the market. However; and in most cases just like cable TV still good for the commercial market as well.

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