FCC chairman to unveil plans for Internet oversight
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski on Thursday will disclose the agency's much-anticipated approach to regulating the Internet.
The move comes in the wake of a recent decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which said the FCC overstepped its bounds when it chastised broadband provider Comcast Corp. for impeding some of its customers from using the file-sharing service BitTorrent because it is a so-called bandwidth hog and slows down the Internet for everyone.
At issue is the so-called net neutrality principle, which would prohibit Internet service providers from playing favorites or discriminating in how they allow consumers to access the Web.
As part of Genachowski's plan to give the FCC oversight, he will propose reclassifying the regulation of the Internet. A senior FCC official said the chairman will "seek to restore the status quo as it existed prior to the court decision." This is likely to require reclassification of the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act.
The move is already being cheered by some media watchdogs, consumer activists and Internet companies.
"It appears they are charting a path toward a sensible broadband policy framework that will protect consumers and promote universal access," said Josh Silver of advocacy group Free Press.
Stifel Nicolaus of Washington, D.C., said the FCC's actions "could put pressure" on the stocks of cable and telephone companies, but will be seen as a positive for Google.
Cable and telecommunications companies are expected to protest any such efforts to bring a heavy regulatory hand to the Internet.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. Credit: Win McNamee / Getty Images