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FCC Chairman Defends Net Neutrality Turf

FCC Chairman Juilus Genachowski plans to tell legislators at a House hearing Wednesday that the FCC's new network neutrality rules are a straightforward and sensible compromise on rules for the Internet road, hailed by market analysts as a light-touch approach to regulation, and one that insures that "law-abiding citizens can say what they want and go where they want online."

He also suggests the route to those rules was open, well-travelled, adjusted after hearing from all sides and a welcome signal of regulatory certainty to investors and innovators.

That is according to a copy of his prepared remarks obtained by B&C. The hearing, in the House Communications & Internet Subcommittee, was called by the Committee's Republican leadership, who are trying to block the rules, characterizing them as an end-run around Congress that will chill investment.

Genachowski's prepared testimony is essentially a tour of the process from the FCC's October vote proposing to expand and codify its network neutrality principles to the Dec. 21 vote approving them, though it makes no mention of the Comcast/BitTorrent decision that helped guide the final product or the proposal to classify Internet access under Title II that got pushback from Congress and led to the compromise rules.

"Some people say that our open Internet framework doesn't go far enough. Some people say it goes too far," he says, though he does not extend the Goldilocks-like evocation to its natural conclusion of getting the rules "just right." but does say: "I believe we did the right thing," and points out others do, too.

The chairman of the committee, Greg Walden (R-Ohio), and other Republicans disagree strongly, so the FCC chairman can expect to get questions on why the FCC did not wait for Congress to clarify its Internet oversight authority, as those Republicans had wanted, and just how the rules will spur investment and economic growth, which could become something of a regulatory litmus test.

In a Committee majority briefing memo on the rules,  which provided its own tour of the history, the Republican committee members suggested the new rules would stifle the Internet's growth, was not based on market analysis and was likely beyond the FCC's authority.

Genachowski plans to argue the rules "recognize that broadband providers must have flexibility to adopt innovative business models and obtain a return on investment."

Republicans have also questioned whether the commission lived up to its transparency pledge in adopting the rules--Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell has complained that the FCC put thousands of pages into the public record only days or hours before the public comment period closed.
The chairman plans to reiterate that it was one of the most open processes in the FCC's history that was adjusted according to input from the public and other stakeholders.