Obama FCC Expected to Abandon Net Neutrality, Universal Internet

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported
that the Federal Communications Commission is expected to abandon its
pledges to protect Net Neutrality and to ensure universal, affordable
broadband. The story cites anonymous insiders confirming that FCC
Chairman Julius Genachowski is "leaning toward" siding with the most
powerful phone and cable lobbyists on a crucial decision: whether the
FCC will have any authority to protect an open Internet and make it
available to all.

It is a testament to the phone and cable industry's overwhelming influence that they seem to have convinced
the nation's communications agency to swear off authority to protect
Americans' right to open communications. But it is stunning that
Genachowski would even contemplate allowing it to stand, given President Obama's repeated pledge to ensure fast, affordable, universal Internet broadband for every American.

So what's going on here?

In early April, a a federal appeals court ruled that, based on
decisions by the Bush-era FCC, the agency lacks the authority to
regulate broadband providers. In so doing, the court effectively handed
control of the Internet to companies like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon
-- allowing them to slow down or block any website, any blog post, any
tweet, any outreach by a congressional campaign. The FCC no longer has
the power to stop them.

Fortunately, the FCC does have the power to easily fix the problem
by "reclassifying" broadband under the law. All it would take is a vote
by its five commissioners -- and Genachowski already has the votes. But
so far, he has done nothing, while proponents of Net Neutrality (the
principle that prevents providers from indiscriminately blocking or
slowing Internet content) have been watching and waiting with bated

If Genachowski gives up on restoring FCC authority, you can be sure he
will claim that Internet deployment remains the signature issue of his
FCC and that he can still accomplish the goals outlined in the FCC's
recently released National Broadband Plan.

But unless the FCC puts broadband under what's called "Title II" of
the Telecommunications Act, nearly every broadband-related decision the
agency makes from here forward will be aggressively challenged in
court, and the FCC will likely lose. The phone and cable companies know this, which is why they're going all out to keep the FCC from fixing the problem.

The goals of the much-feted National Broadband Plan
are to ensure all Americans can get high-speed access to the open
Internet -- not a closed version of the Internet that looks more like
cable TV, where phone and cable companies decide what moves fast or not
at all.

Chairman Genachowski could stand up for the American people, and
against one of the biggest lobbying juggernauts in Washington, but it
will take courage. If he fails to stand with the public, it could mean
the end of the Internet as we know it.

Before it's too late, we need to make sure the FCC knows the American people are watching, and we will not sit quietly as the largest companies destroy the open, democratic Internet.

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