Policy

Title II: The Great Divide

7/27/2010 9:08 AM Eastern

Washington — Representatives
from both sides of the network-
neutrality debate continue
to meet in private with Edward
Lazarus, chief of staff to Federal
Communications Commission
chairman Julius Genachowski,
but publicly they’re still diametrically
opposed as to how the
agency should clarify its broadband
authority.

According to documents filed
with the FCC, those pushing for
network-neutrality rules — Google,
Skype, the Open Internet Coalition,
cable operators and telephone
companies — are still talking about
a legislative “fix” to the problem
raised when a U.S. appeals court
called into question the agency’s
authority to regulate broadband
in the Comcast-BitTorrent case.

The FCC has been pushing a different
way to ensure net neutrality:
Reclassifying cable MSOs and other
distributors using a limited enforcement
of common-carrier rules.

In addition, according to an
FCC source, the meetings are getting
fewer and farther between,
with the two camps meeting separately
with commission officials.

And not everyone is at the table.
The American Cable Association
does not have a seat, and
that does not sit well with its president,
Matthew Polka, who represents
about 900 operators.

“ACA has not yet been invited
to participate in the closed-door
meetings that the FCC is having
with large broadband providers
on reclassification,” Polka told
Multichannel News last week. “We
think the chairman should include
the views of smaller operators who
provide broadband to consumers
in smaller markets and rural areas.
So we certainly would accept an invitation
from the chairman.”

FCC sources have said the chairman
is looking to an early fall
decision on a declaratory ruling establishing
that third way. Republican
commissioner Meredith Attwell
Baker told MCN last week that her
sense is still that Genachowski is still
looking to do something “while the
leaves are on the trees.” And Rep.
Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) warned last
week against putting it on the September
FCC meeting agenda.

If a fix can be worked out, it, too,
could beat leaf-raking season — the
window between the August recess
and Congress’ exodus to campaign
for re-election.

September
October