Republican senators not happy with FCC's "Third Way"

Senate Republicans voiced their displeasure Monday with the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) plans to reclassify broadband Internet access as a telecom service.

37 Republican Senators signed a letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski decrying his "third-way" plan for regulating broadband access, arguing the approach would discourage private investment and harm consumers. In the letter the Senators reject the FCC's basis for reclassifying broadband as a telecom service and claim that doing so would not increase broadband deployment as promised.

"The reality is that what you are seeking is a major shift in FCC policy that is highly controversial and has been previously rejected by Congress and both Democratic and Republican administrations," the letter states. "Turning 21st century broadband networks into 'dumb pipes' is not what will draw investment to grow jobs in the communications sector and bring high-speed broadband to every home in America."

The letter states that rather than relying on fact-based analysis as promised, the FCC's efforts "appear to be solely relying on the unsubstantiated fear that broadband service providers may harm consumers at some future date." It also charges the FCC with "operating under the misguided notion that there is a lack of competition among broadband service providers."

The FCC has sought to regain its authority to regulate broadband access since a federal court ruled in April that the Commission had overstepped its bounds when it attempted to enforce net neutrality on Comcast, one of the nation's largest Internet service providers. Since then Genachowski has sought to have broadband reclassified as a telecom service, placing it under the FCC's jurisdiction.

The plan has drawn opposition from providers as well as lawmakers; Senate Republicans were quick to point out the FCC found as recently as 2007 that broadband competition was robust and further regulations were unnecessary, criticizing the Commission for failing to provide evidence to the contrary.

"There is scant evidence that the broadband market lacks competition or that consumers have been harmed in a manner that would warrant the heavy-handed 19th century regulations you seek to impose on a highly competitive 21st century communications marketplace."

The letter closes by referring back to the court decision and urging the Commission to change course and abandon its planned changes.