FCC's Clyburn: New broadband rules not backdoor for net neutrality

While Clyburn said she actively supports open Internet, she described Chairman Julius Genachowski's newly proposed regulations on broadband companies as the only way to enact widely supported measures in the National Broadband Plan, which were cast in jeopardy following an April court ruling.

The FCC's push for reform follows a D.C. court's unanimous finding that the commission only has jurisdiction over "telecommunications services," not  "information services," under which the Internet falls. That left the FCC two major options as it embarked on its plan to expand high-speed Internet to 90 percent of American households: reclassify broadband so that it fell under the same rules as phone companies, or leave it to Congress to rewrite the law.

The FCC ultimately tapped what Chairman Julius Genachowski called a "third way" -- using a procedure called "forbearance" to pick and choose elements of Title II to apply to broadband providers. While it is less aggressive that all-out reclassification, broadband companies and telecommunication firms were nonetheless infuriated by the FCC's new plan for regulation.

Some opponents have since decried the FCC's move to rein in broadband providers as just a backdoor attempt to institute net neutrality rules, which would prevent Internet companies from discriminating against certain kinds of online traffic. But the commissioner also railed Tuesday on those who have sought to conflate those two debates in an effort to stir opposition to the FCC's plans.

"At the outset, it must be made absolutely clear that the issue of reclassification goes far beyond our open-Internet proceeding," said Clyburn, a Democratic member of the commission who signaled early support for Genachowski. "It involves some of the most important parts of our National Broadband Plan."

"Without reclassification, the road to achieving each of these issues is laden with landmines and is likely to fail."

The commission has no plans to "takeover the Internet," nor does it hope to impose new, burdensome rules on broadband providers, she added. Rather, the FCC only hopes to restore the rules "that almost everyone assumed we had" before a federal court ruled in April that the FCC's means of enforcing them were not legally sound, Clyburn said.