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Net Neutrality Update I: Will the Proposal Get the Votes?

Julius Genachowski, FCC; Photo: fcc.gov

Questions have been swirling about Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski’s new net neutrality proposal since he first laid it out it out last week.

It would enshrine the concept of treating all Internet traffic equally into law, but it also held out the carrot of allowing Internet providers to charge customers based on their use of broadband, known as usage-based pricing.

As telecom observers begin reading the tea leaves ahead of the Dec. 21 vote, big questions remain, such as will the proposal gain enough support from the commission to proceed?

As far as partisan support, the proposal faces battle cries from both sides.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat whom The Hill characterizes as a “staunch net-neutrality supporter,” has recently called for an even-greater expansion of FCC regulation over broadband than what Genachowski has proposed.

But the FCC chairman’s proposal has one unlikely supporter: former FCC Chairman Republican Michael Powell, proving right the old adage about politics and strange bedfellows.

Powell, who said he fears excessive regulation could hurt the Internet’s booming economy, said the new proposal would largely maintain the status quo and quiet industry’s fears that the agency will crack down on service providers.

But while Genachowski’s proposals have drawn the support of one Republican outside the agency, another Republican, actually on the commission, is not backing down.

Meredith Attwell Baker, one of two Republicans currently sitting on the commission, told Politico she was prepared to go public and even pen op-ed pieces against the proposal.

“I’m afraid we are endangering a really important agenda. . . by pushing forward with a partisan, big-government regulatory issue that has no immediate need for us to act,” she said.

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