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Title II Fans Take Issue With FCC Proposal

Net neutrality groups did not come out with all guns blazing against the FCC's proposed network neutrality compromise order Wednesday, but there was some not-so-friendly fire. They made it clear that they were worried the proposal made too many concessions to cable and phone companies, particularly in not reclassifying Internet access under Title II regs, as FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski had initially proposed.

Media Access Project president and former FCC commissioner Tyrone Brown said the group was "very disappointed" at initial reports about the proposal, including that it applied only some of the net neutrality proposals to wireless broadband and that "it appears that the Chairman does not contemplate invoking the Commission's 'Title II' authority to ensure that the rules will withstand judicial review."

Brown said that MAP would work with the Commission to make sure the final order includes "a basis for extending service to those not now covered, full application to wireless, protection against all efforts to block or degrade Internet access, and enforceable rules rather than an ad hoc complaint-based process."

He added that anything less "will be checkmate by the phone and cable companies."

Free Press, another big net neutrality backer, phrased their comment in the form of a question, at least in the headline to its statement: "Is FCC Peddling Fake Net Neutrality?" Its answer seemed to be a qualified 'yes:' "It is deeply disappointing that a Chairman who has placed wireless at the center of his entire broadband agenda would seek to adopt rules that give AT&T and Verizon a free hand to engage in economic discrimination and crush innovation by mobile application developers," said Free Press President Josh Silver. "Apparently, Genachowski, who just last year believed it was essential that the Internet itself remain open, however users reach it, now says that it is acceptable for wireless carriers to arbitrarily discriminate."

Silver added that "by apparently allowing access providers to exploit the loophole of so-called specialized services, Genachowski is taking the same exact approach to splitting the open Internet into fast and slow lanes that Verizon and Google proposed last summer."

Silver held out hope that the other two Democrats on the Commission, Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn, could toughen the item. "By failing to restore the FCC's Title II authority, Chairman Genachowski could be unnecessarily placing Net Neutrality, and indeed his entire broadband agenda, at serious risk. The good news is that two of the other FCC commissioners, like President Obama and millions of Internet users, have loudly proclaimed their
support for strong Net Neutrality rules. It will now be up to them to overhaul and improve this proposal to make sure the free and open Internet stays that way."

The open Internet Coalition, which was a party to talks at the FCC on a compromise net neutrality, said it supported "circulation" of the item, but called it a "first step" and said it would work with the chairman and commissioners "as they review this proposed order to ensure that the final order achieves the president's goals."

According to a briefing paper being circulated by net neutrality fans, a proposal that did not ban paid prioritization, did not apply the regs equally to wired and wireless broadband or provided a too narrow definition of broadband Internet access or too loose a definition of reasonable network management would take the teeth out of a net neutrality proposal.

Public Knowledge (PK) was the first of the net neutrality backers to weigh in a little after midnight Tuesday. PK President Gigi Sohn praised the chairman for putting net neutrality on the agenda, but added that he should separately reclassify broadband under Title II "at a future meeting."