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Since the dust has settled from a stinging defeat in federal court, the FCC has decided to move on its own to settle the broadband regulation dispute. With a 3-2 vote the commission issued a Notice of Inquiry that would set the stage for more regulatory authority of broadband.
It seems ironic that the motivating factor was the court case brought by Comcast in Federal District Court to immobilize the FCC’s efforts to sanction the service provider from throttling Bit Torrent, file sharing customers. Evidently commissioners felt not only embarrassed that it did not have authority over broadband, but that any move to interfere in future disputes in net neutrality questions would be tied up in the courts for years. Not only were those issues, but parts of the National Broadband Plan was predicated on the FCC having authority to move its agenda forward, bringing this into question.
Clearly this is a commission determined, with the necessary votes, to stem the tide of court challenges of its authority in the broadband arena. Congress has been absent in formulating any new rules to effectively address the tremendous up-surge in Internet traffic resulting in these issues being brought to the forefront. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 did nothing to address the Internet since, at that particular time; most of us were barely getting our feet wet on this new and exciting realm. Now, the landscape has changed to remind everyone involved of the potential expand or retract the Internets growth and accessibility.
With constituents on opposite sides of the regulatory debate hitting Capitol Hill with power lobbyists, congress is now weighing in on the issue with rumblings of new bills to clarify the FCC’s responsibilities. A democratic congress could assure that laws are enacted to give the FCC its due course in reining in a perceived Wild-Wild West Show the Internet has provided by solidifying an upfront regulatory environment.
Whether this will dampen investment in the very technology that could create and sustain new jobs should weigh in on every lawmaker in Washington, D.C. It could also run counterproductive to the President’s already lagging approval ratings if new jobs are not both a clear and near term focus. What does the economy need: a determined focus on job creation and job sustainability? Let us not forget that market investment, not regulation, creates and sustains new jobs.