Genachowski Back to Drawing Board


Washington — Federal Communications
Commission chairman Julius Genachowski
is looking to reunite networkneutrality
stakeholders and move on an
item as early as December, according to
people familiar with the matter.

Genachowski, hoping to use the agency’s
existing authority to institute basic Internet
non-discrimination rules, wants to discuss
a compromise on regulation in line with
the bipartisan legislative solution scuttled
weeks ago.

Sources within and outside the agency
confirmed that there had been a meeting
at the FCC Nov. 22 with at least three of
the stakeholders: the National Cable & Telecommunications
Association, Verizon Communications
and AT&T, as well as separate
meetings with public-interest groups and
tech types.

The idea would be to codify the FCC’s four
network-neutrality guidelines and add ones
on transparency and nondiscrimination, as
the agency proposed last fall. At least some
of the guidelines would likely be applied to
wireless broadband as well — likely confined simply to a ban on blocking Web sites
or voice-over-Internet protocol.


All that would be tied to the FCC’s ancillary
authority under Title I, which a federal
court called into question earlier this year.

But if the FCC tries to use that ancillary
authority, each action it takes could become
a separate court challenge, a point
the agency’s own lawyers made in arguing
for its “third way” proposal of reclassifying
Internet access under Title II commoncarrier
regulations. “My understanding is
that they will still rely on Title I,” said the
FCC source, “so it will last about as long as it
takes to bring it to court.”

Talks about a legislative fix for network neutrality
began at the FCC, before moving outside
the building, after a Google-Verizon side
agreement threw a monkey wrench into those
plans. Action then shifted to Capitol Hill,
where the bill collapsed under the weight of
Republican opposition. The goal now would
be a commission vote by year-end.

Fueling the story was the news last week
that the FCC had moved its December meeting
date back from Dec. 15 to Dec. 21, almost
certainly to give the chairman more time to
line up support before circulating an order.

Moving the FCC meeting date also gives
staffers until Nov. 30, the Tuesday after
Thanksgiving, to circulate the item to the
other commissioners, which is customarily
done three weeks before the meeting. That
will make for an eventful day, since Nov. 30
is also the current date of that monthly meeting,
where the FCC is planning to launch its
rulemakings on reclaiming spectrum
from broadcasters.

Getting stakeholders on board
might reduce the number of lawsuits
in what could otherwise become
open season on Title I. With
a Republican House and not much
political will among Republican or
Democratic legislators for Title II,
there is far less incentive for industry
to sign on to the FCC’s net neutrality
regs, but the idea may simply
to be to try to put the issue behind
them and move on, said a source with one
of the stakeholders.


House Republicans have spoken out strongly
against not only Title II, but any effort
to codify net-neutrality rules. Fred Upton
(R-Mich.), a leading candidate to head the
House Energy & Commerce Committee,
which oversees the FCC, said that he would
block any FCC net-neutrality effort.

An FCC spokesperson last week called reports
of the item “rumors from outside, uninformed
sources” and “pure speculation at
best.” As to the date move: “An extra week
will help us evaluate potential agenda items
for December.”