We've created a handy FAQ for questions about the broadband framework discussed today or for more background. In opening the meeting, Chairman Genachowski welcomes a delegation from Pakistan and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn’s mother, Emily Clyburn.
There is but one item on today’s agenda. Today we will hear a presentation on the legal framework surrounding broadband. To start Deputy Counsel Julie Veach of the Office of the General Counsel gives the history of the steps the Commission has taken toward protecting the sanctity of the Internet and protecting consumers. This timeline is dotted with benchmark events; such as the Telecommunications Act of 1996, AT&T v. City of Portland (9th Circuit), and NCTA v. Brand X Internet Services (Supreme Court). An overview of Comcast v. FCC is given.
The office then lays out the options between Title I and Title II. There are drawbacks to both that don’t fully cover the intricacy of the Internet. The panelists then introduce the third way. As the general counsel note, this route is “modeled on successful ‘Regulatory Treatment of Mobile Services.’” Internet would be classified as an information service but this option would forbear on a nationwide basis from all but a small number of core Title II provisions.
The Commission was on shaky ground prior to the Comcast decision, Commissioner Copps declares. “We need to reclaim our authority.” Commissioner Copps likens this path forward to protecting the Internet onramp. “We are not talking, even remotely, about regulating the Internet. It’s about making sure consumers have maxim control over the having access to the Internet.”
Commissioner McDowell speaks next. He qualifies his comments by noting that ninety percent of the Commission’s work is bipartisan and unanimous. This proceeding, however, falls under the ten percent upon which there is disagreement. The Commission is seeking to apply19th century railroad regulation to a 21st century technology, he argues. His presentation features supporting statements and quotes from news publications and members of congress. While the proposal is well intentioned, “This may have the unintended consequence of stunting growth.”
In her remarks Commissioner Baker dissents. “We won't have clear legal jurisdiction on broadband unless Congress gives it to us,” she says. Little attention has been paid to the statistics. She points to ninety-one percent of Americans who are happy with their Broadband access. “Reclassifying an entire segment of the Internet is not necessary.”
As the last speaker, Chairman Genachoswki addresses several angles and concerns that have arisen out of the question on the proper broadband framework. The FCC’s processes are complementary to the congressional effort to update the Communications Act, he says. We need to ensure the Commission stands on solid legal ground as we consider how to approach the broadband framework. “We do so today in an open and balanced way.” While industry would prefer being unchecked, “A system of checks and balances in the telecommunications sector has served our country well for decades and decades and has spurred trillions of dollars in investment.”