Washington’s Internet Obsession

Kevin Bunkley Nov 18, 2010

Here in Washington, the Obama Administration has been pursuing a lot of internet-related policy while we’ve all been distracted with tax cut and budget debates. First, President Obama plans to appoint an internet privacy czar. The Wall Street Journal says that the new position is aimed at protecting consumers on the internet, and that the Commerce Department will be given the power to have a task force recommend certain internet policy changes. Several Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have expressed a desire to have the Commerce Department fill in gaps where they say the internet is not properly self-regulated by telecommunication companies such as AT&T and Verizon.

Meanwhile, Congress is grappling with what to do about broadband policy. The Department of Commerce may have released a report bringing doubts about the need for a nationwide broadband plan, but the debate over internet regulation got re-energized by the telecom companies. Comcast’s Vice President suggested that there is no battle if Congress and the Federal Communications Commission would let the telecommunications companies regulate the internet themselves.

Net neutrality is essentially a way to keep the internet open, and could level the playing field, and ensuring access to the internet can’t be restricted by those providers. The FCC faces the task of trying to come to an agreement before the new Congress is seated, otherwise it could be more difficult. Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan issued a memo that echoes the feelings of many GOP members of Congress:

*”The FCC must stand down from pursuing a course unauthorized and opposed by Congress.” *

But FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is placing equal blame on the telecom companies. If negotiations aren’t resumed before the end of the year, these jabs from both sides are an early indicator of the difficult fight ahead for the administration’s goal of regulating the internet.

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