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Net neutrality plan will likely pass, says ex-FCC chairman

By Grant Gross
December 7, 2010 02:37 PM ET

IDG News Service - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will likely approve a compromise network neutrality proposal from its current chairman later this month with the support of many large broadband providers, Michael Powell, former chairman of the agency, said Tuesday.

Powell, a Republican, questioned the need for new net neutrality rules, but he suggested that long-term uncertainty over the proposed regulations has held back investment in the telecom industry. "At the end of the day, it's time to move," Powell said during an Internet Innovation Alliance forum.

Powell, now a senior adviser for communications and media investment firm Providence Equity Partners, questioned whether net neutrality supporters have shown evidence of consumer harm by broadband providers. And he suggested that the FCC and others engaged in a contentious debate over net neutrality this year could have focused on more important issues, including broadband deployment and adoption.

"For the better part of the year, regrettably to some degree, we have been stuck in the never-ending debate over net neutrality," he said. "Rarely in my time in communications have I seen so much valuable time and money and energy spent on so modest a gain."

Groups on both sides of the net neutrality debate have criticized the plan released by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski this month. Congressional Republicans have ripped into Genachowski for attempting to pass new regulations in the wake of an election when many antiregulation candidates won seats in Congress.

Reps. Joe Barton of Texas and Cliff Stearns of Florida, two senior Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called Genachowki's plan "inappropriate." The commission chairman is calling for a vote on new net neutrality rules on Dec. 21.

"The FCC should defer to Congress, a majority of which has clearly expressed concerns that regulating the Internet will cause harm, not good," Stearns said in a statement earlier this month.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said Saturday on C-SPAN's "The Communicators" she would introduce legislation preventing the FCC from enforcing net neutrality rules if the commission takes action this month.

Meanwhile, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, like Genachowski a Democrat, has questioned whether the FCC can pass net neutrality rules without reclassifying broadband as a regulated, common-carrier service, something the Genachowski plan doesn't include. Copps, in a speech last Thursday, also questioned why Genachowski's plan exempts mobile broadband from some net neutrality rules.

Media reform group Free Press has also blasted the Genachowski proposal, calling it "fake" net neutrality.

But broadband provider Comcast has voiced support for Genachowski's plan, saying it "strikes a workable balance between the needs of the marketplace and the certainty that carefully-crafted and limited rules can provide to ensure that Internet freedom and openness are preserved."

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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