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Genachowski Says He Did Not Discuss Net Neutrality With President

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Thursday he did not discuss the FCC's new network-neutrality rules with President Barack Obama (his law school classmate and friend), and did not push the rules to fulfill the president's campaign promise on network neutrality.

Those responses came during some heated questioning from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) during a House Judiciary Internet subcommittee hearing featuring the chairman and senior Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell. They were there to give their divergent views on the rules, which McDowell dissented for some length.

Issa has pressed the chairman on White House visits made between January 2009 and November 2010.
Genachowski, a former Harvard Law School classmate of Obama's, helped draft the Obama campaign's tech policy plan, which at the time boiled down to "open government, open networks, and open markets."

The chairman was asked whether the FCC's upcoming report on broadband deployment would continue the trend, begun with July's 706 report, that broadband was not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion. He suggested it would, explaining that universal access was the goal, and that with a gap of about 100 million people who either don't have or don't choose to use broadband, that gap remained a large one that the FCC was working to close.

On the issue of gaps, he said that one of the reasons the FCC adopted the network neutrality rules was to end the Groundhog Day-like cycle of net-neutrality debate that was impeding high-speed access, suggesting that the "bid and ask" between the two sides on the issue was not that large, witness the eventual compromise that he said was supported by many on both sides.

The hearing was divided along political lines, generally, with Democrats serving up opportunities for the chairman to defend the compromise regs and talk about the need for more spectrum and regulatory certainty, and the Republicans challenging the FCC's authority to regulate, saying it had subsumed Congress' authority.

He suggested that further finding of broadband not being deployed at a reasonable and proper rate could serve as an incentive. "Any spur we can give to ourselves to increase adoption is very important," he said.

McDowell said he dissented from the rules primarily because he did not think the FCC had the authority to adopt them, an approach he would take whether or not he agreed with them. In this case he made it clear he did not.

He has consistently said the rules were unnecessary, and an overreach of authority, and were likely only to add confusion to the marketplace when a court eventually threw them out.

Genachowski defended the application of net-neutrality conditions on the Comcast/NBCU deal, saying they were transaction specific and addressed the potential anticompetitive harms of combining the largest broadband distributor with a large content company.