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Net neutrality and Next-gen 911 on FCC’s Dec. 21 Agenda

WASHINGTON: The Federal Communications Commission officially announced the agenda for its upcoming regular monthly confab. As expected, network neutrality is on the docket. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski let it be known Dec. 1 he was circulating draft rules for network neutrality.

His description outlined a basic proposal--one that abandoned his earlier strategy to legally reclassify the Internet and therefore allow for more stringent regulation. Basically, broadband providers would have to allow subscriber access to all legal content, applications and services available over high-speed networks. Additionally, Genachowski’s draft makes allowances for usage-based pricing, and managing congestion and spam, so long as providers disclose how they do it.

The FCC’s agenda item reads: “The commission will consider a Report and Order adopting basic rules of the road to preserve the open Internet as a platform for innovation, investment, competition, and free expression.”

Network neutrality has been a Democratic cause celebre for years, but they’ve had no success getting it past Republicans. Democrats frame network neutrality--which would prohibit Internet Service Providers from regulating network traffic--as the preservation of an open Internet. Republicans frame it as regulating the Internet. Genachowski indicated his proposal represents a compromise because it allows usage-based pricing.

A party line FCC vote is nonetheless expected. Republican Commissioners Meredith Attwell Baker and Robert McDowell immediately voiced opposition.

“We do not have authority to act,” Baker said in a statement. “I urge the chairman to defer action on net neutrality until the new Congress has had an opportunity to address this issue.”

McDowell, a straight-shooting and generally independent regulator, called the proposal an “ill-advised maneuver. Such rules would upend three decades of bipartisan and international consensus that the Internet is best able to thrive in the absence of regulation.”

Said Democrat FCC veteran Commissioner Michael Copps: “It’s no secret I am looking for the strongest protections we can get to preserve an Open Internet.”

And his Democratic colleague, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn: “I am anxious to begin my review of the chairman’s agenda meeting item that seeks to preserve an open and free Internet.”

The second agenda item is for a Notice of Inquiry on a 911 system that encompasses broadband devices.

The open meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010, at 10:30 a.m. in Room TW-C305, at 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C.