Liberal groups signal doubts with FCC reclassification plan

The letter does not explicitly pan the FCC's plan, which would use a controversial maneuver to change broadband's regulatory status and possibly increase its authority.

But some of the signatories are on the record with doubts about that process, including the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the Minority Media and Telecom Council (MMTC).

The entreaty may signal similar skepticism from those signatories who have not spoken up against FCC action.  "We support Congressional action and you can read between those lines," said Cecelie Counts, legislative representative for the AFL-CIO, who declined to say the group opposes the FCC's plan.

Also signing the letter were the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Urban League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Sierra Club.

Doubts about reclassification stem from the possibility that it could complicate the regulatory situation and lead to litigation, according to CWA's Debbie Goldman. MMTC is worried about uncertainty created by the "problematic" FCC process, said David Honig, the group's president.

Broadband service providers such as AT&T and Verizon say that Congressional action is needed if FCC authority is to be bolstered. Congressional Republicans have held the same line, along with 77 Democratic members.

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Some of the groups on the letter have ties to big Internet providers. MMTC receives funding from telecom interests, and CWA's members work for telecom companies.

The FCC and the chairman of the authorizing committees in Congress say the FCC's process could be complementary to a legislative one, which they hope to begin this year.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski contends that the "urgent" nature of the agency's broadband goals has pressed him to move forward quickly.

Experts say Congressional action could take years. The last successful rewrite of communications law occurred in 1996.