- On December 1, 2010, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski revealed his draft Open Internet order which will be voted on at the FCC’s planned December 21 meeting. Although the order has not been publicly released, the Chairman outlined its principles in a speech Wednesday morning. The order would require transparency and prohibit blocking for both wireless and wireline broadband Internet access, and will apply a nondiscrimination rule to wireline broadband. The order also focuses on “lawful content,” a seeming concession to groups like the Motion Picture Association of America which has concerns about copyright violations through file-sharing services. “Reasonable network management” was highlighted in his remarks as a way for broadband providers to “deal with traffic that’s harmful to the network or unwanted by users, and to address the effects of congestion.” The order also includes usage-based pricing as a possible model to match price to cost, a billing method already in place for mobile broadband, but one that has not gained much traction for wireline services. The order does not reclassify broadband as a Title II service, but officials have suggested that it relies at least in part on Section 706 of the Communications Act which requires the FCC to take steps if broadband is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely manner. The most recent 706 report, released on July 20, 2010, had found that broadband deployment to all Americans was not reasonable and timely, and the FCC has already accepted comments on next year’s report.
- Reaction to the Open Internet order across the industry was mixed, as reflected in statements from the other Commissioners. The draft order has angered both those who wanted more regulation and those who wanted no regulation. Republican Commissioners criticized the plan, with Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker stating the FCC did not have authority to act and that it should wait until the new Congress convenes. Commissioner Robert M. McDowell stated that he “strongly oppose[s] this ill-advised maneuver.” On the other hand, Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael J. Copps expressed general support for the measure, although Mr. Copps did say he supported “the strongest protections we can get.”
Chairman Genachowski’s speech is available here.
Commissioner Baker’s statement is here.
Commissioner McDowell’s statement is here.
Commissioner Copps’ statement is here.
Commissioner Clyburn’s statement is here.
- The European Union (EU) has opened an antitrust investigation into whether Google manipulated its search results such that smaller search competitors were “downgraded” while giving its own services “preferential placement.” The investigation will also examine whether Google demanded exclusive deals with companies using Google’s advertising services, such that those companies could not advertise with other search engines. Google promised to cooperate in the investigation “to address any concerns.”
- The dispute between Comcast and Level 3 heated up this week, and the FCC is looking into the matter. Level 3 seeks relief from Comcast’s imposing additional charges for the broadband connections between the two companies due to the expected increased traffic from Level 3’s carriage of Netflix streaming. Level 3 argues that the charges have net neutrality implications, because Comcast is creating a “toll booth” for Internet traffic and Comcast has a competing video product. Comcast has stated that the dispute has nothing to do with net neutrality. Level 3’s press statements are available here. Comcast’s FCC filing on the matter is available here.