FCC chairman expected to leave broadband services deregulated

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission has indicated he wants to keep broadband services deregulated, reports the Washington Post—even as a federal court decision has exposed weaknesses in the agency’s ability to be a strong watchdog over the companies that provide access to the web. The FCC currently has “ancillary” authority over broadband providers such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon and must adequately justify actions over those providers. Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the agency had exceeded its authority in 2008 when it applied sanctions against Comcast. The ruling cast doubt over the FCC’s ability to create a “net neutrality” rule that would force internet service providers to treat all services and applications on the web equally. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is expected to respond soon to the court ruling. Three sources at the agency said Genachowski has not made a final decision but has indicated in recent discussions that he is leaning toward keeping in place the current regulatory framework for broadband services, while making small changes that would bolster the FCC’s chances of overseeing some broadband policies. The sources said Genachowski thinks “reclassifying” broadband to allow for more regulation would be overly burdensome on carriers and would deter investment. But they said he also thinks the current regulatory framework would lead to constant legal challenges to the FCC’s authority every time it attempted to pursue a broadband policy. “The telephone and cable companies will object to any path the chairman takes,” said Art Brodsky, a spokesman for Public Knowledge, a media public interest group. “He might as well take the one that best protects consumers and is most legally sound.”

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FCC survey shows need to teach internet basics

Is the internet too dangerous for children?
46 percent of adults who don't have broadband access believe the internet is too dangerous for children.

The federal government’s plan to provide fast internet connections to all Americans will have to include some basic instruction in Web 101, a new survey reveals. According to the survey, nearly half of adults who don’t subscribe to broadband say the internet is too dangerous for children—a finding that suggests policy makers and educators face a steep challenge in convincing much of the public of the benefits of broadband access.

The Federal Communications Commission’s first-ever survey on internet usage and attitudes concludes that those who aren’t connected today need to be taught how to navigate the web, find online information that is valuable to them, and avoid hazards such as internet scams.

The study, released Feb. 23, comes less than a month before the FCC is due to hand Congress policy recommendations on how to make affordable, high-speed internet access a reality for everyone. The findings are certain to shape the policy recommendations in that plan, which was mandated by last year’s stimulus bill.…Read More