Genachowski: Net-Neutrality Suit ‘Distracting’

1/16/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Las Vegas — Federal Communications Commission
chairman Julius Genachowski said Verizon Communications’
lawsuit challenging the agency’s network-neutrality
regulations was “distracting” and could create
uncertainty and confusion in the market.

Genachowski, in his third appearance at CES, primarily
used the stage last Wednesday (Jan. 11) to stump for his
favorite issue — pushing TV broadcasters to auction off
their spectrum to be used for wireless broadband.

On network neutrality, Genachowski said he was proud
of the outcome, which he claimed has not hampered investment in
broadband networks
and applications.

The FCC’s network-
which went into
effect Nov. 20, require
to disclose network-
techniques and forbid ISPs from blocking or degrading
specific content or applications.

Genachowski, who was interviewed by Consumer
Electronics Association president Gary Shapiro, said the
FCC was “tempted to focus on other things” but he felt
he needed to take action on network neutrality to bring
about a détente between network providers and technology

“I thought we had to bring peace to the land,” he said.
“I’m proud of the result — our goal was to see increased
investment in the broadband economy.”

About 80% of companies supported the FCC’s network
neutrality rules, according to Genachowski. Alluding to
Verizon’s lawsuit, which argues that the agency does not
have authority to regulate the Internet, he said, “It’s a distracting
lawsuit that runs the risk of
creating uncertainty, unpredictably
and confusion as we move forward.”

On the “spectrum crunch” issue,
Genachowski repeated his call to
repurpose TV airwaves for mobile
broadband. He said voluntary spectrum
auctions would generate $25
billion in cash for the U.S. Treasury,
and — more important — make additional
capacity available for new

“My message today on incentive
auctions is simple: We need to get it done now and we
need to get it done right,” he said.

Congress is to make a decision on a law enabling the
FCC to proceed with incentive auctions by March 1. “At
stake is U.S. leadership in mobile,” Genachowski said.

Genachowski noted that New York has 28 full-power
TV stations. “I grew up in New York and I don’t think anyone
can name 28 TV stations,” he said. “What’s the right
number for New York? … The beauty of incentive auctions
is, the market will decide.”

In terms of future initiatives, Genachowski acknowledged
that the Communications Act of 1996 “should be
updated,” but he didn’t get into specifics and said a reform
to the law is “not something that is actively being

“I’ve been very careful to focus on the things I really
want to get done,” Genachowski said.

In his prepared remarks, Genachowski marveled at the
broad range of products on the CES show floor: “Where
else can you find a USB stick that is also a bottle opener?”

“Virtually every product on the CES floor is fueled by
broadband Internet,” he said. “If you shut off the Internet,
virtually nothing on the show floor would work.”

Shapiro cited the 2012 presidential election, pointing
out that if a Republican beats President Obama, Genachowski
could be out of a job. Asked by Shapiro what Genachowski
wanted to be his legacy, the chairman identified
focusing the FCC on broadband and working to unleash
wireless spectrum. “We have a lot of work to do in 2012,”
he said.