Obama’s FCC to enforce ‘net neutrality’

The Obama administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to keep the Internet free of increased user fees based on heavy Web traffic and slow downloads.  

Julius Genachowski, the FCC chairman, told The Hill that his agency will support “net neutrality” and go after anyone who violates its tenets.

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“One thing I would say so that there is no confusion out there is that this FCC will support net neutrality and will enforce any violation of net neutrality principles,” Genachowski said when asked what he could do in his position to keep the Internet fair, free and open to all Americans.

The statement by Genachowski comes as the commission remains locked in litigation with Comcast. The cable provider is appealing a court decision by challenging the FCC’s authority to penalize the company for limiting Web traffic to its consumers.

The FCC chairman, only in the job for roughly two months, said the commission’s general counsel is working on the best legal strategy to defend its open Internet principles. In 2008, then-FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, a Republican, joined with the commission’s two Democrats in voting to penalize Comcast for limiting Web traffic related to the file-sharing program BitTorrent, which the company is challenging in federal court.

Genachowski, a Harvard Law School classmate of President Barack Obama's and a fundraiser for his 2008 campaign, has been a big supporter of net neutrality. An Internet venture capitalist, he helped write the campaign’s tech policy as an adviser, which included solid support of such principles.

Telecom corporations have often chafed at net neutrality. They have lobbied against similar limits placed in the stimulus package, saying they represented unnecessary regulation that could impede private innovation.

The FCC can also look to Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) for backing on the issue. The lawmaker introduced net neutrality legislation just before the onset of the August recess that would guard against discriminatory practices by network operators.

Genachoswki would not offer an opinion on the pending legislation but said “the FCC’s job for legislation like that is to be a resource … to make sure they have the facts and the data that they need.”

Asked if he needed more tools to enforce violations of the commission’s open Internet principles, Genachowski said the commission will speak up if it needs more authority.

“If we don’t, we will say so,” he said.

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