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FCC Urged To Act On Net Neutrality

Pointing to the "Congressional stalemate" over broadband regulation Senator John Kerry said the FCC is likely to move ahead on a regulatory solution for oversight of broadband after public outcry over the FCC's private meetings with companies caused the FCC to drop the meetings.

The Massachusetts Democrat, who is chairman of the Senate communications subcommittee, said he hopes a bipartisan compromise can be achieved on broadband, but his comments indicate he believes there is little likelihood of an agreement on broadband being reached during the current session of Congress.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski "is now moving forward along a regulatory path," said Senator Kerry in a statement. "While this is an imperfect solution, it's his only real option to maintain the proper role of government oversight in communications. While we search for a long term solution I believe that all regulatory options should remain on the table."

Kerry's comments followed a firestorm of criticism centered around reports that Verizon and Google had reached a deal on net neutrality. The two firms have been trying for months to reach some sort of agreement on net neutrality and the latest brouhaha lacked details, although it was said to be focused more on landline access than wireless access.

The FCC has been hampered by a pro-carrier federal court decision that restricts FCC regulatory powers. While most Democrats in Congress support the FCC in broadband, enough Democrats are siding with opposing Republicans that the FCC broadband plan is in jeopardy of failing, at least for the time being.

Senator Kerry, who supports Genachowski's plan, indicated the focus of the broadband debate will shift away from private deals among carriers (like Verizon) and content providers (like Google) and center on regulatory solutions including a consideration of having the Internet classified as a Title II telecommunications service. It is currently classified as a Title I information service and, as such, the FCC has less regulatory control over broadband.

"I hope that over time we can carve out a bipartisan compromise that preserves and promotes an open, ubiquitous, inclusive Internet infrastructure between Title II and an unregulated network," Senator Kerry said.

Although there were scant details on the Verizon-Google private talks - they have been discussing net neutrality with each other for several months anyway- reports of an announced agreement next week led to a public outcry over the perceived secrecy of the talks and the FCC said it would put an end to its involvement in private talks.

In announcing it would forego any additional private talks with broadband players, Edward Lazarus, FCC chief of staff, said in a statement that the talks had been "productive on several fronts, but (have) not generated a robust framework to preserve the openness and freedom of the Internet - one that drives innovation, investment, free speech and consumer choice."