Tuesday, May 04, 2010

More speculation on the FCC's future direction

Two articles in the Washington Post offer some insight into where the FCC might go next, following the recent court ruling against it. The first suggests that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) could become "a more powerful watchdog for Internet users" if proposals to expand its ability to create rules come to fruition:
"The version of regulatory overhaul legislation passed by the House would allow the FTC to issue rules on a fast track and permit the agency to impose civil penalties on companies that hurt consumers. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz has argued in favor of bolstering his agency's enforcement ability. "If we had a deterrent, a bigger stick to fine malefactors, that would be helpful," Leibowitz told Fox News last week. That provision to strengthen the FTC is absent from the financial overhaul legislation before the Senate. Some observers, however, expect the measure to be included when the House and Senate versions are combined."
Commentary from Fierce Telecom:
"As expected, the proposed power shift has the usual parties scrambling to either block it or push it forward. If it gets through, it's possible the FTC could take up the charge for net neutrality for an FCC that was wounded - some say mortally - by a court decision that said it had no power to punish Comcast for throttling Internet speeds for bandwidth hogs."
I think Comcast's actions were rather more complex than "throttling Internet speeds for bandwidth hogs" though, see this previous post. The second and more recent Washington Post article (also picked up by the BBC) reports that FCC Chair Julius Genachowski has indicated that he wants to keep broadband services deregulated:
"...sources said Genachowski thinks "reclassifying" broadband to allow for more regulation would be overly burdensome on carriers and would deter investment. But they said he also thinks the current regulatory framework would lead to constant legal challenges to the FCC's authority every time it attempted to pursue a broadband policy."
The FCC is expected to respond formally to the court ruling soon. It will be interesting to see how the agency proposes to balance providing the necessary leadership with not over-burdening carriers.

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