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OTHER OPINION: FCC

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opinion Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

Give Julius Genachowski credit for doggedly pursuing his quest to keep the Internet free and open. Unfortunately, we believe that his latest plan for doing so, which he introduced last month, is still flawed.

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Mr. Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, argues that the agency needs to police Internet service providers (ISPs) to prevent indiscriminate blocking of applications and services, especially those that compete with the ISPs' own offerings. The agency called out Comcast for what it saw as such an abuse but was rebuffed by a federal appeals court that concluded the agency lacked legal authority to press its case. (Disclosure: The Washington Post Co. has interests in broadcast and cable television and in businesses that depend on the Internet, all of which could be affected by FCC action or inaction.)

Mr. Genachowski tried to sidestep that ruling by changing his legal theory and invoking a part of the law originally meant to regulate common carriers such as telephone companies. He has since wisely parted ways with this idea and instead argues that the agency has the authority to enforce net neutrality rules by stitching together bits and pieces of various provisions of telecom law. He proposes to require providers of fixed broadband services to inform customers of network management practices and to prohibit them from "unreasonable discrimination." The plan is said to allow ISPs some wiggle room to charge different rates for different levels of service. Wireless carriers would be subject to a lighter regulatory approach.

Heightened transparency would be a welcome step. But there is scant evidence to support the FCC's possible intrusion into ISPs' ability to manage their networks.

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