Don’t Be Distracted By The Shiny Announcement: PK Urges the FCC to Keep Moving on the Third Way

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Today, Public Knowledge filed reply comments in the FCC’s “Third Way” docket, urging the Commission to take the steps necessary to protect consumers online.

With all of the commotion over this week’s Google/Verizon announcement, it is important to remember that the major decisions about broadband classification (and net neutrality) will be made at the FCC.

Our original comments laid out the case for why the Commission should go forward with its third way plans.  The reply comments are an opportunity to refute some of the claims made by others the first time around.

The first point that we made was that, without Title II, the FCC will be unable to achieve the goals described in the National Broadband Plan.  In order to do things like expand broadband access, increase speeds, and encourage adoption, the FCC needs to establish clear authority to act.  If it does not establish this authority, it will be defending itself in court every time it tries to do anything.  We are not saying that the FCC’s decision is not going to be challenged – rather, under Title II it is only challenged once.  Without Title II, it is challenged over and over and over.

We also took some time to show what Title II classification does not mean.  In a chart (page 10-11 of our filing), we explain how various services (like VoIP, Facebook, and DNS) would be impacted by proper classification.

Particularly relevant in light of the Google/Verizon announcement, we repeated why it was so important not to exclude wireless from any access rules.  Even though wireless is different from wired (after all, it doesn’t use wires), it is not so different as to make it a completely distinct service.  If accessing the Internet through a smartphone does not convince you of that, try replacing your home wired Internet connection with a wireless offering from a carrier like Clear to see how the future is moving towards access convergence.  While “reasonable network management” may differ between types of networks, there is simply no reason to exclude wireless broadband simply because it does not use wires.

Finally, we addressed some of the administrative and constitutional objections that various ISPs raised in their first round comments.  In many ways, this is the easiest part of any filing, because incumbent ISPs have been making the same senseless arguments for months, if not years.  As a result, we can just look to administrative arguments we made back in May and constitutional arguments we have been making since April

Now the ball is in the FCC’s court.  They just pushed their scheduled September meeting back to September 23.  Traditionally they post their agenda three weeks in advance, so we may know by September 2 exactly what they are planning to do.

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