FCC may regulate Internet lines days before Christmas

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a Christmas gift in store for the phone and cable industry: it may move ahead on its controversial net-neutrality regulations three days before Christmas.

An FCC source confirmed on Friday that the commission plans to push its December meeting back by a week, meaning it will fall on the 22nd of the month. That's the same meeting in which analysts say the agency may move forward on its controversial net-neutrality proposal.

Though the FCC has not confirmed that it will vote on net neutrality this year, rumors are swirling that it will. 

The timing of the meeting is already raising eyebrows. Some see it as a way to move the matter along before the GOP assumes the majority and while Congress is not in session to criticize the effort.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), ranking member of the telecom subcommittee, questioned the schedule on Friday.



He said "it appears that Chairman [Julius] Genachowski is trying to slip it under the radar and hope no one notices."


Industry sources also suggested that political calculus is involved with the change of date for the meeting.

"While many Americans will be enjoying their eggnog on that day, I'm sure the broadband providers won't be pleased to find this piece of coal in their stockings," an industry source jibed.

Republicans are already mounting a campaign to oppose the potential Internet line regulations, which would aim to rein in how cable and phone companies manage Internet traffic. Nineteen Republicans signed a letter to Genachowski on Friday urging him not to move forward with net neutrality.

“Reigniting the network neutrality debate will only distract us from that work and further jeopardize investment, innovation, and jobs. We ask you not to circulate such an order,” they wrote. 

Democrats on Capitol Hill may come to the commission's defense, however, as the policy has various supporters in the House. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement on Friday that he wants the agency to act this year.

"Preservation of a free and open Internet is essential to protect consumers, spur investment, foster innovation and promote the free flow of ideas," he said. 

An FCC official also remained steadfast on Friday that net-neutrality rules are a sound policy.

"Net Neutrality is about preventing anyone from regulating the Internet. There are some cable and phone companies out there that want to decide which apps you should get on your phone, which Internet sites you should look at, and what online videos you can download. That’s regulating the Internet -- and that’s what the FCC is trying to stop,” the official said.