FCC's Democrat members rally behind Genachowski on broadband reform

The FCC's two Democrats on Thursday signaled they would support their chairman's push for more broadband regulations.

Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn both stressed in separate statements that they believe Chairman Julius Genachowski's move to apply to broadband some rules that already govern phone companies is the right way forward.

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Their support -- and their votes -- are crucial, as the FCC embarks on the comment and rule-making process that will bring Genachowski's proposals into fruition.

Copps, a day after penning an op-ed in Roll Call calling for reform, said Thursday that Genachowski's plan "can put us on the right road -- if we travel the road swiftly, surely and with the primary goal of protecting consumers foremost in our minds."

While he later said he would have preferred a stricter approach -- applying all, not just most, of the telephone rules to broadband providers -- he said he welcomed Genachowski's alternative.

Clyburn on Thursday also applauded Genachowski for "working tireless to find a solid middle ground" after a federal court ruling jeopardized the agency's ability to regulate broadband.

“If we truly support universal access to broadband, if we are serious about transparency in broadband speeds and billing, if our aim is to strengthen our nation’s cybersecurity, and if we care about ensuring meaningful access to communications technologies by people with disabilities, then Title II authority is essential," she said.

"The fact that the Chairman has been able to find a way to accomplish this without unnecessary and burdensome regulations on industry means a victory for all parties," Clyburn added.

However, the FCC's Republicans were far less welcoming Thursday. Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker both called Genachowski's proposal "disappointing" and charged it failed to take into account the industry's perspective.

"It is neither a light-touch approach, nor a third way. Instead, it is a stark departure from the long-established bipartisan framework for addressing broadband regulation that has led to billions in investment and untold consumer opportunities," the commissioners said. "It also poses serious ramifications across the globe."