Originally published: October 12, 2010
Last updated: October 12, 2010 - 8:14pm
Key congressional staffers said they believe Congress should address issues related to the Federal Communications Commission's authority over broadband but they broke down along party lines as to how quickly lawmakers need to act.
During a Capitol Hill forum sponsored by the Free State Foundation on the future of broadband regulation, staffers from the House and Senate Commerce Committees discussed the recent breakdown in efforts to pass network neutrality legislation being led by House Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) The legislation was aimed at addressing the stalemate over the issue of whether the FCC should reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service after its authority over broadband providers was put in doubt following an April federal appeals court ruling in a case involving broadband provider Comcast. Reclassification would allow the FCC to move forward on its network neutrality proceeding, aimed at barring broadband providers from discriminating against Internet content. Waxman's legislative effort stalled late last month before Congress recessed after he said he was unable to persuade Republicans to sign on to a draft bill that had the support of large broadband providers, some Internet firms and some public interest groups. The draft bill would have applied nondiscrimination principles to wireline broadband but not to wireless and directed the FCC to deal with enforcement on a case-by-case basis, rather than through rulemaking. Chairman Waxman "is open to revisiting [the issue] in the lame duck session," after the November midterm election, Tim Powderly, senior counsel on the Commerce Committee's Communications Subcommittee said. "He thinks that if Congress can't act, the FCC must go forward with what it's going to do on reclassification."
Neil Fried, senior counsel to the Commerce Committee's Republican staff, however, argued that the GOP did not sign on to the effort because "there wasn't sufficient time to get Republicans comfortable with the approach being taken." He said Communications Subcommittee ranking member Cliff Stearns (R-FL) would have liked to have seen lawmakers attempt to resolve the issue much earlier than they did.
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