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House E&C Asks How/Whether To Regulate Edge Providers

The House Energy & Commerce Committee Republican leadership wants input on how and whether the FCC should regulate edge providers.

That was one of the questions teed up in the third in a series of white papersthe committee is issuing as part of its review and planned rewrite of communications law.

The latest white paper focuses on competition policy and what role the FCC should have. Among the questions for stakeholder comment is one on competition at the network level and the substitutability of various delivery mechanisms.

"Following the Verizon decision, the reach of the Commission to regulate 'edge providers' on the Internet is the subject of some disagreement," the white paper says, then asks. "How should we define competition among edge providers? What role, if any, should the Commission have to regulate edge providers," which it describes as "providers of services that are network agnostic."

The Verizon decision was the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit's decision to remand the FCC's no-blocking and non-unreasonable discrimination rules back to the commission for better legal justification. The court indicated that the FCC could use its mandate to insure the deployment of advanced services to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion to regulate whatever it concluded was an impediment to that statutory mandate.

The issue the white paper raises is whether edge providers are also potentially subject to that regulation (for example, would paid priority in a search engine's rankings be something that impedes the "virtuous cycle" of unfettered access to content that the FCC is pledging to preserve through new open Internet rules).

Other issues the committee wants to get comment on include whether the FCC should be "transitioned" into an enforcement agency on the model of the Federal Trade Commission or retain its broad rulemaking authority and whether, given the change in the competitive marketplace for networks and services, the Communications Act should require periodic reauthorization as an opportunity to reevaluate it and individual provisions.

The white papers are part of a year-long review that is intended to inform an effort next year to revamp the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

While the paper focuses on the FCC's role in competition policy, the committee is looking for any aspect of competition policy related to updating the act.