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Copps: Title II is Still Best Way to Go

If his planned speech at Columbia University Thursday night is any indication, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps is no lock for the necessary third vote on Chairman Julius Genachowski's network neutrality order as currently drafted. He said in his statement about the order that there was still work to be done, and he spelled out what some of that heavy lifting should entail.

In that speech, about the future of journalism, Copps talked about helping new media flourish by guaranteeing Internet freedom "now." Among the elements not in the draft order, according to various sources inside and outside the commission, is a ban on managed services. The order also applies only a transparency regulation and one preventing Web site blocking to wireless broadband. Those have been pointed to by net neutrality fans concerned
the compromise item is not strong enough. They are also concerned that the definition of "reasonable network management" could leave too much wiggle room for ISPs.

Copps talks about all of those in his speech, and suggests they all need to be addressed in the final order.
"So-called 'managed services' and 'paid priority' cannot be allowed to supplant the quality of the public Internet service available to us all," he planned to tell his audience. 'Reasonable network management' practices must never be allowed to cloak competitive one-up-manship," he says, according to a copy of the prepared text. "And citizens are entitled to an official venue-the FCC-with access to the arcania of engineering data so we can determine whether it is reasonable in a given case for anyone being denied the full potential of the Internet and put a stop to it if it is not.
"Internet Freedom also means guaranteeing openness in the wireless world as well as the wired. As people cut their wired connections, why would we deny them openness, accessibility and consumer protections in the wireless world? The implementation of such rights may need to vary a bit depending upon the technology platform-but the principle must stand."

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski did indicate in his speech announcing the order that the commission would keep an eye on wireless for any changes that needed addressing. " Under the framework, the FCC would closely monitor the development of the mobile broadband market and be prepared to step in to further address anti-competitive or anti-consumer conduct as appropriate," he said.

Copps reiterated his preference for Title II reclassification. "Internet freedom also means protecting consumers by implementing non-discrimination and transparency rules at the FCC. These rules must be put on the most solid possible legal foundation and be quickly and effectively enforceable.  If this requires reclassifying advanced telecommunications as Title II telecommunications-and I continue to believe this is the best way to go-we should
just do it and get it over with.  To expect openness, transparency, non-discrimination and consumer protections to evolve from strictly private management of our nation's critical information infrastructure is to expect what never was or ever will be."

The chairman this week circulated a draft order on network neutrality that would be supported under the current Title I classification of Internet access, rather than reclassifying it under a modified Title II common carrier regime, which Copps preferred. That came about as a compromise with stakeholders. Cable and telco operators were diametrically opposed to the Title II approach, and were joined by the majority of members of the House of Representatives.

While the chairman initially said that a Title I defense of network neutrality regs would likely fail, senior FCC officials speaking on background said they have since come up with an approach based in Title I but tied to other parts of the Communications Act, that they think will hold up in court.

The chairman has slated a Dec. 21 vote for the item, which is strongly opposed by both Republicans.