For Immediate Release
Timothy Karr, 201-533-8838
Free Press Calls on FCC to Reassert Authority over Broadband
New Report Presents Legal Case for Title II Approach
WASHINGTON - On Monday, Free Press released a new report, Restoring FCC Authority to Make Broadband Policy: A Way Forward After Comcast v. FCC.
The report outlines the legal case for the Federal Communications
Commission to restore its authority over broadband by reclassifying it
under Title II of the Communications Act.
The paper argues that this is the most reasonable and legally sound way for the FCC to move forward in the wake of the Comcast v. FCC
case, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit cast
doubt upon the FCC's authority over broadband under Title I of the
Communications Act. The paper rejects claims that the agency could
restore its authority under Title I. It also argues that waiting for
congressional action would cause the United States to fall further
behind the rest of the world in broadband quality and adoption.
"The FCC has both the authority and the duty to step into the void, and to reclassify broadband," said Aparna Sridhar,
Free Press policy counsel and author of the report. "We can't wait for
five or 10 years to get rural and low-income Americans hooked up to
broadband. And we can't wait for five or 10 years to create policy
preserving principles of openness that have made the Web so successful
thus far. The public needs those changes now, and the FCC is really its
In 2002, the FCC moved to deregulate broadband access services,
labeling them "information services" under Title I of the Communications
Act. In 2007, cable giant Comcast was caught blocking its customers'
access to BitTorrent, a popular file-sharing application. After the FCC
sanctioned Comcast, the company filed suit challenging the decision. The
appeals court made its ruling in Comcast v. FCC last spring, placing the agency's authority over broadband in legal limbo.
"The Obama administration set the goal of bringing affordable access
to the Internet to all Americans, and right now this Commission doesn't
have the levers it needs to carry out those goals," said Susan Crawford,
Cardozo Law professor and former White House technology adviser. "The
agency made a mistake in 2002 when it decided it could protect consumers
without the authority Congress gave it in the Telecommunications Act."
Unless it reclassifies broadband, the FCC's ability to extend
broadband access to rural and low-income communities, to protect the
Internet from phone and cable companies seeking to construct toll roads
online, and to ensure that the United States remains at the forefront of
technology and innovation is in jeopardy. If the Commission proceeds
under Title I, its authority to achieve these goals will be challenged
in court under a legal framework that has already been rejected.
"Title I is leading the agency down a path of intense confusion and
chaos, and I don't think this chairman wants to leave behind a gutted
agency," said Tim Wu, Columbia University Law professor and author of The Master Switch.
"By reclassifying broadband access services, we're talking about an
approach to communications policy that recognizes the Internet as basic
A link to the report is here: http://www.freepress.net/
Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net