WASHINGTON - Federal regulators are reconsidering the rules that govern high-speed Internet connections - wading into a bitter policy dispute that could be tied up in Congress and the courts for years.
Over the objections of the agency's two Republican commissioners, the Federal Communications Commission voted yesterday to begin taking public comments on three paths for regulating broadband. That includes a proposal by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, to define broadband access as a telecommunications service subject to "common carrier" obligations to treat all traffic equally.
The FCC defines broadband as a lightly regulated information service.
Genachowski's plan has the backing of many big Internet companies, which say it would help prevent phone and cable companies from using their control over broadband connections to determine what subscribers can do online.
"There is a real urgency to this because right now there are no rules of the road to protect consumers from even the most egregious discriminatory behavior by telephone and cable companies," said Markham Erickson of the Open Internet Coalition. Its members include Google, eBay and online calling service Skype Ltd.
Genachowski's plan faces resistance from broadband providers, including AT&T and Verizon. They say it opens the door to onerous and outdated regulations that would discourage them from upgrading their networks.- AP