FCC's Net Neutrality Decision Could Be Delayed Until November

By Niraj Chokshi

The Federal Communications Commission is taking network neutrality one small step at a time.

The agency on Wednesday announced that it will be seeking public comment on certain aspects of net neutrality, the idea that Internet service providers should not be allowed to limit bandwidth based on which sites or services customers use. The comment period will last a few weeks, possibly delaying any major FCC decision until after the November elections, The Wall Street Journal reports. And, despite an analyst's suggestion to the contrary yesterday, the agency reaffirmed that it hasn't yet narrowed down the array of options before it. As an official told The Journal, "all options remain on the table."

The FCC has long been considering reclassifying broadband Internet access under Title 2 of the Communications Act, a move that would give the agency more authority over broadband providers. On Wednesday morning, an analyst suggested that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had "abandoned" that effort, but officials made it clear that that wasn't the case, according to The Journal. "Securing a solid legal foundation for broadband policy is too important an issue to rush," one official told the publication.

Another FCC action yesterday will ensure that the it won't be rushed, at least for a few weeks. In early August, Google and Verizon announced a compromise proposal on how to deal with net neutrality. The companies agreed that wired access should remain net neutral, but didn't directly address whether the same should be true for wireless access, used predominantly by mobile phones and tablet PC's.

And that's what the FCC wants public input on: how should net neutrality apply both to wireless and to specialized services such as health-care monitoring. But not everyone is enthused about the FCC taking its time in seeking further comment. Free Press, an advocacy organization which has been both a proponent of net neutrality and a critic of the Google-Verizon plan, shared its concerns with MarketWatch:

"The FCC continues to kick the can down the road and prolong this process, but the longer the FCC ponders the politics of Net Neutrality, the longer consumers are left unprotected," Free Press Research Director S. Derek Turner said.

And the FCC is willing to wait, even if that means dealing with possibly greater opposition from Congressional Republicans, who may gain more Congressional seats this November.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/09/fccs-net-neutrality-decision-could-be-delayed-until-november/62390/