Because broadband is considered an information service, a federal court has questioned the FCC's ability to order Comcast to change its network management practices. This has thrown the FCC's net neutrality agenda into uncertain territory.
If the FCC reclassifies broadband as a telecommunications service, it would have clear jurisdiction to enact regulations aimed at broadband Internet service providers. It would, therefore, be better equipped to enact net neutrality, a top priority of the Obama administration.
Consumer advocates Free Press and Public Knowledge want to see the FCC follow through with its thoughts of reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service so the agency has more freedom to oversee a wide range of issues, from consumer privacy to the deployment of new fiber networks.
But the biggest Internet service providers say changing broadband's regulatory status would impose common carrier rules dating back to 1934 on technology that requires a different framework.
They say giving in to the requests of "certain groups advocating an extremist form of 'net neutrality' regulation" would be "a profound mistake with harmful and lasting consequences."
"That classification would inflict burdensome obligations not just on those providers, but on a wide variety of other Internet-based companies that have generally operated outside the Commission's purview," the companies said in the letter to FCC Chair Julius Genachowski.
"It is difficult to imagine a proposal more at odds with the Commission's historical commitment to keeping the Internet unregulated, to our national prospects of economic recovery, and to your own commitment to 'common sense' solutions," they said.