By 11:59 PM tonight, we here at Public Knowledge will have filed comments with the FCC in response to their proposed “Third Way” approach. We believe that the Commission’s proposal would resolve many of the legal questions raised by the recent Comcast decision and that it is imperative that the Commission enact such an approach in order to place the FCC’s authority on firmer legal foundation to protect broadband consumers and carry out the National Broadband Plan.
Well, before the Comcast decision that the FCC doesn’t have the authority to prevent anticompetitive behavior by a broadband provider, the FCC has virtually no authority whatsoever to act on issues of broadband access and fairness. We think it should.
Significantly, without this proposal, PK would be severely limited in our efforts to protect the open Internet because, well, the FCC wouldn’t be able to do anything.
The result of the Comcast decision raised some very serious legal questions regarding what kind of power the FCC has in policing the telecom industry in favor of the consumer. As it stands, it is questionable whether the FCC can enforce network neutrality, protect consumers from anti-consumer and anticompetitive practices by broadband providers, or even prevent broadband providers from blocking or disfavoring certain applications and content. It is uncertain whether it can ensure the privacy of broadband users or any matter of consumer protection in general. It may not help provide for expanded broadband access through rate subsidies from the Universal Service Fund or for help low-income families, or support affordable broadband access for schools and libraries. It may not even have the authority to require transparency from broadband access providers to ensure consumers are fully informed.
These are things that everyone wants the FCC to be able to do, but without a measure like this “third way” approach, the FCC remains powerless to protect and empower consumers, foster healthy competition, and facilitate access to the Internet by all Americans.