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FCC Tackles Net Neutrality and Complex Cable

In its regular open meeting this month, the FCC opened a Notice of Inquiry on network neutrality. The commission will check out how broadband providers manage traffic, how they charge for bit-rates and whether or not it should be regulated.

When the FCC in 2002 classified cable modem service as an information rather than a telecommunications service, it set the course that freed broadband service from common carrier regulations. Then as broadband traffic grew and Internet video exploded, providers started grumbling about bandwidth hogs, threatening to charge traffic-heavy video sites according to bit usage.

A hue and cry rose that the nation's few broadband providers were becoming heavy-handed gatekeepers who would alter the creative anarchy of the Internet. An ensuing battle over network neutrality, which would prevent broadband providers from imposing bit-rate fees on site owners, brought last year's telecom reform bill to a screeching halt in the Senate.

The FCC in the same meeting, classified wireless broadband service as an information service. In a separate item, the commission also issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on contracts between cable and DBS television providers and multiple dwelling units such as apartment complexes. The notice "tentatively concludes" that the FCC has the authority to regulate such deals if they're found to "impede competition."