FCC Commissioner: Classify Internet as Phone Service

Rejects as hogwash contentions that it would lead to massive disruption and economic woes

A second FCC commissioner is rejecting as hogwash contentions that regulating the internet as a phone service would lead to massive disruption and economic woes.

An appellate court has ruled that the FCC has no legal authority over the internet, which the commission has classified as an information service. To get around the ruling, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has proposed it be reclassified as a phone service – which would put it directly under the FCC’s authority.

In a speech Thursday to the nonpartisan Media Institute, Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn said the court ruling leaves little choice but for the agency to move forward with its reclassification plan.

Critics of Genachowski’s move — among them phone companies and cable internet service providers — have their argument exactly backwards, Clyburn said.

Regulating the internet, she said would not create uncertainty that could hamper investment but it would lift legal uncertainties and boost investment — as it has for wireless networks, which also are regulated as phone services.

“We are coming off a resounding blow to the commission and [without reclassification] are left with a hodgepodge of long-shot attempts to coble together just enough authority to accomplish our goals.”

Without reclassification, she said, the FCC would be “tangled in a web” of years of court challenges over efforts to ensure cyber security, transparency, privacy, access to those with disability, net neutrality.

“It seems to me that the only predictability is that a large number of lawyers do not have to worry about their job security for some time to come,” she said.