WGAE to FCC: Reclassify the Internet

Fears trying to use legal authority over internet will kill net neutrality

The Writers Guild of America East on Monday said it was “deeply troubled” by a report that Federal Communications Commission Julius Genachowski is leaning against reclassifying the internet as a telephone service.

The report — in Sunday’s Washington Post — suggested that Genachowski would prefer use the FCC’s existing legal authority to move forward on net neutrality.

Both the WGAE and Free Press, a consumer group active on media issues, expressed concern that such a move instead would further endanger net neutrality.

Lawyers say that FCC has two options in the wake of the court’s action. It could reverse reclassify internet connections as a phone services — a move internet service providers and telephone companies oppose – or it could offer better legal justification for regulation of the internet and try to proceed.

Free Press executive director Josh Silver warned the FCC’s failure reclassify broadband as a phone service would “destroy Net Neutrality” and “lead to aggressive court challenges for any other FCC regulatory action over the internet.”

 “The FCC can and must act decisively to protect the internet from those who would limit access for commercial or political gain,” said the WGAE’s statement. “As the FCC itself has noted, the internet is likely to become the preeminent method of distributing news, public affairs, and entertainment programs in the future. We would therefore remind the Commission and the White House of President Obama’s pledge to preserve ‘net neutrality’ — to keep the internet open as a democratic and uncensored forum equally available to everyone.”

The Bush administration FCC in 2005 decided that the internet was an “information service” and not a phone service. The appellate court panel ruled that determination left the FCC without authority to regulate the internet, overturning the FCC’s attempt to sanction Comcast for partially blocking downloads by its customers of some big BitTorrrent video files.