SCENARIOS-What's next for U.S. broadband regulation?
WASHINGTON, June 17
WASHINGTON, June 17 (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has released a proposal to regulate high-speed Internet access despite complaints by big telephone and Internet providers who do not want more regulation.
The FCC has said its broadband Internet plan goes light on regulations, but companies like AT&T Inc (T.N), Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) and Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) worry that a future presidential administration could renege on that pledge. (For more on this story, click here: [nN17264805])
Here are possible scenarios for the outcome of broadband regulation.
ACTION AS SOON AS THIS YEAR
The FCC will digest information collected from public comments to determine how to regulate broadband Internet access through landlines and airwaves to wireless devices.
A formal proposal could include another public comment period and a rule in which the five commissioners would accept or reject with a vote. Or it could skip the proposal and say it will regulate broadband under existing phone regulations. That could happen this year.
A formal FCC rule could clear the way for the agency to start implementing the National Broadband Plan.
STUCK IN COURT, MAYBE FOR YEARS
Companies squeamish about more regulation have said they would challenge the FCC's action in court, something that could take years to resolve.
The FCC likely would argue that it has the authority to reclassify broadband and companies are likely to argue that the FCC is overstepping its bounds. A U.S. appeals court already has questioned the FCC's authority in this area.
Congress is considering whether to give the FCC clear broadband authority.
Proponents of broadband regulation want closure on this issue, but the process could take several years to get through Congress. More Republicans in the next session of Congress could strengthen the industry's position against regulations.
Lawmakers are considering a "surgical strike" or a "rifle shot" approach for near-term changes to the U.S. communications law to give the FCC limited broadband authority. This option's chances of happening are slimming as November elections near.
A short-term legislative fix could give the FCC the surest and fastest approach to move forward with its National Broadband Plan. (Reporting by John Poirier. Editing by Robert MacMillan)