Tomorrow, the five-member FCC will vote on whether to move forward on Chairman Julius Genachowksi’s proposal for regulating broadband Internet providers. The big news is that FCC Commissioner Michael Copps has rescinded his earlier objections to Genachowski’s proposal, and will vote to move it forward. From Copps’s statement:
"The item we will vote on tomorrow is not the one I would have crafted. But I believe we have been able to make the current iteration better than what was originally circulated. If vigilantly and vigorously implemented by the Commission—and if upheld by the courts—it could represent an important milestone in the ongoing struggle to safeguard the awesome opportunity-creating power of the open Internet. While I cannot vote wholeheartedly to approve the item, I will not block it by voting against it. I instead plan to concur so that we may move forward.
Genachowski first made his proposal public on December 1st. As Joan blogged at that time, the proposal was disappointing. Open internet advocates argued Genachowski’s proposals would do severe damage to Net Neutrality. They offered only weak protections against paid prioritization by broandband providers. Further, even those weak protections would not apply at all to people accessing the Internet via mobile devices like your phone and iPad.
At first, Copps fought back against this proposal.. Since both of the Republicans on the FCC were opposed to Genachowski’s proposal, Copps’ opposition gave open Internet advocates leverage to improve--or even scrap--the Genachowski proposal. As of this morning, before Copps made his statement, it sounded as if some progress was being made to do just that. From National Journal:
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski is making progress in narrowing gaps with his two Democratic colleagues over his controversial plan to adopt sweeping new rules for the Internet, National Journal has learned. But with the talks very fluid, and differences remaining, there's still a possibility that the regulatory initiative could be pulled at the last minute from the agenda of Tuesday's commission meeting.
Genachowski needs the support of Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn to approve his "network neutrality" proposal, which would create enforceable rules designed to protect the openness that is the Internet's hallmark. While both Copps and Clyburn are net neutrality advocates, they've complained that the chairman's framework cuts too many breaks for major telecommunications and cable providers of broadband. The two Republicans on the five-member commission remain staunchly opposed, arguing that the proposed rules amount to unnecessary government regulation of the Internet.
An FCC source familiar with the negotiations said progress is being made in three key areas: addressing concerns about wireless carriers, limiting Internet toll lanes and adding protections for a new online pricing model.
How many concessions, if any, Copps and Clyburn won remains to be seen. Still, expect it to be about as good as most deals Democrats seem to cut, which means that it is not very good at all. For example, Free Press is extremely unhappy:
FCC Set to Move Forward with Fake Net Neutrality
Free Press Managing Director Craig Aaron made the following statement:
“We are deeply disappointed that this Commission appears to be moving forward with deeply flawed rules that don’t live up to the promises of the president or the FCC chairman to protect the free and open Internet. These rules appear to be flush with giant loopholes, and the FCC chairman seems far more concerned with winning the endorsement of AT&T and the cable lobbyists than with listening to the millions of Americans who have pleaded with him to fix his proposal.”
What’s particularly frustrating about this instance of Democratic “compromise” is that there was no need to compromise at all. Democrats hold the majority in an unelected regulatory body, and will during 2011-2012 as well. Still, the telecoms won anyway. To call it sad is an understatement.