Media News

US FCC to discuss broadband policy at June 17 meet

* FCC to seek public comment

* FCC moving forward as Congress eyes revamping law

WASHINGTON, May 27 (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission said on Thursday it will launch the first step in the process to regulate broadband during a meeting next month.

The communications regulatory agency scheduled a June 17 open meeting among the five commissioners to vote on whether to solicit public comment on a proposal to regulate broadband access.

A U.S. appeals court ruling in April forced the agency to revamp its Internet authority. The court found that the FCC had failed to show it had the authority to stop Comcast Corp CMCSA.O from blocking online applications that distributed television shows and other bandwidth-hogging files.

After the ruling the FCC said it plans to regulate broadband access as a telecommunications service -- instead of as an information service -- but said the industry should trust that it will not apply the most burdensome price controls and competition mandates that come with that framework.

Internet providers however were pessimistic about the legal foundation of the FCC’s latest approach and some predicted it would delay the agency’s National Broadband Plan, unveiled last month to expand access and boost Internet speeds.

At the June 17 meeting, the commissioners will discuss whether they should proceed with the broadband regulation proposal, which FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced on May 6. [ID:nN06130955]

Fearing that the FCC move would bring confusion and delay to investments in the industry, some companies like AT&T Inc T.N and Verizon Communications Inc VZ.N warned of ensuing legal challenges.

Still, the FCC is pursuing its broadband agenda while key members of Congress have initiated the first of many steps to start looking into how the U.S. telecommunications law should be retooled to reflect the growth of high-speed Internet.

Earlier this week Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Rockefeller and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman said they will hold a series of meetings starting in June with stakeholders to start discussing proposals. [ID:nN24265070]

Topics of those proposals could be unveiled as early as next week. (Reporting by John Poirier, editing by Matthew Lewis)