FCC Chair Defends Regulations, Calls FCC a ‘Cop on the Beat’

Matt Cover | September 26, 2012 | 3:48pm EDT
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In this file photo made March 12, 2010, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is interviewed at his office in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, file)

(CNSNews.com) Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski defended his agency’s role in regulating broadband Internet, saying that the FCC needed to act like a “cop on the beat.”

“We need to protect and promote competition,” Genachowski said at a speech to media firm Vox Communications in Washington on Tuesday. “We know from decades of experience that when it comes to competition in the communications sector, the FCC needs to be a cop on the beat.”

Genachowski said that part of this “cop on the beat” approach meant putting rules in place that “prevent anti-competitive practices.”

“Protecting competition sometimes means putting rules in place to prevent anti-competitive practices – rules we adopted last year by majority vote to ensure broadband data roaming is one example,” he said.

Genachowski also cited controversial net neutrality rules as one way the FCC prevents anti-competitive behavior.

“Sometimes government has to act to preserve platforms for innovation – that’s what the open internet/net neutrality debate was all about – doing it in a smart, market-oriented way that recognizes the realities of the marketplace, the fact that we really want an open platform for innovators and we also really want robust, fast networks that require capital investment.

“It drives you to policy solutions that recognize the importance of both.”

Genachowski said he was “proud” that his net neutrality regulations have contributed to what he called a “virtuous cycle” of demand and innovation.

Adopted in 2010, the FCC’s rules on preserving what it called an open Internet prevented Internet service providers such as Verizon or Comcast from controlling the bandwidth available to websites using their networks.

Proponents such as Genachowski argue that the rules are necessary to prevent providers – local telephone or cable companies – from discriminating against websites by limiting how much bandwidth a site could use or by pricing some websites out of the market by charging for extra bandwidth.

If Internet providers were not prevented from limiting bandwidth on their networks, innovation and entrepreneurship might be harmed because it wouldn’t be possible to start companies that rely on high-bandwidth technology such as high-definition video or large-volume social sharing.

In effect, Internet providers would have a monopoly-like effect on web-based companies – controlling who can succeed and who cannot.

Critics argue that the rules are a solution in search of a problem, saying that the FCC is needlessly intruding on the rights of service providers – who own broadband Internet networks – by limiting their ability to control the networks they built in the name of a problem that isn’t happening.

Critics point to the lack of disputes between companies and Internet providers, noting that no provider has ever shut an Internet-based company out of the market or deliberately limited bandwidth. Critics also point out that the only case in which a bandwidth dispute has arisen – between Verizon and a music-sharing website – the two companies came to an agreement without the need of government involvement.

Further, the policy is criticized on constitutional grounds on the argument that in telling Internet providers that they cannot limit access to their networks, the FCC is essentially compelling speech – forcing providers to allow content they may find objectionable across their networks.

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