TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: FCC to Look at Future of Internet Access

FCC to Look at Future of Internet Access

Reuters News Wire (
Thu, 22 Mar 2007 13:12:20 -0500

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission took
a small step to address a growing debate on whether high-speed
Internet providers like AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. should be barred
from charging extra fees to guarantee access to the Internet.

The five commissioners backed a proposal on Thursday to start a
"notice of inquiry" regarding broadband industry practices.

The notice of inquiry, a fact-finding mission that does not always
result in a rule being issued, grudgingly won support from the two
Democrats on the Republican-controlled panel.

"I would have preferred a more proactive approach," said Democrat
Jonathan Adelstein.

Fellow Democrat Michael Copps chided the commission for proceeding too
leisurely and said putting out a notice of inquiry is "not the way to
sail boldly forward."

"I want an FCC that unconditionally states its preference for
nondiscrimination on the Internet," Copps said.

The concept of broadband providers treating all Internet content in
the same way is also known as "net neutrality" and has been the
subject of much debate among lawmakers.

The fear is that if broadband providers charge extra fees for more
reliable service, that they would also be able to block access to the
Internet -- a contention that broadband providers hotly dispute.

Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell called the initial proposal a
sensible, thoughtful and reasonable step and said the commission
should resist the temptation to impose regulation based merely on


The FCC also voted in favor of classifying wireless broadband as an
information service, shielding it from numerous regulations.

Wireless broadband, which powers items like the data cards used in
laptops to get a high-speed connection to do work on the road, will be
less regulated than if it was classified as a telecommunications

An information service includes services like voice mail, that use
technology to manipulate and store information, while
telecommunications is the simple transmission of information.

Information services have always been lightly regulated by the FCC,
whereas telecommunication services are subject to many regulations.

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.

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