Yesterday ARL, together with the American Library Association and EDUCAUSE, sent a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski applauding his announcement of a “third way” approach to protecting consumers and the Internet.
As we pointed out at the time, the recent FCC v. Comcast decision does not block the FCC from acting to protect the Internet or its users; it merely rejected a particular legal theory the FCC had used. That theory, left over from the Bush Administration, was never an ideal foundation for real protection of the Internet, and it even drew withering criticism from Justice Scalia in his dissent in the Brand X case (scroll down 3/4 of the way to read the dissent).
The Chairman’s new, balanced approach starts with the much sturdier foundation found in Title II of the Communications Act, which provides a clear mandate to ensure fairness and transparency for provision of “telecommunications” services, which is exactly what broadband Internet access is.
At the same time, Genachowski proposes to adapt Title II to the realities of broadband by enforcing only select provisions of that tried and true provision, “forbearing” from (i.e. not enforcing) the provisions that fit telephone service but not broadband access. While some commentators are already stoking fear that the Commission is going to distort the Internet with outdated rules, in fact this “third way” approach will simply give the FCC what everyone has believed it had all along: the power to protect users and to protect the Internet itself from deceptive and self-serving behavior by the owners of Internet “on-ramps.”
We mention in our letter some of the myriad uses of broadband Internet access for education and research. We believe the FCC has taken a very important step toward securing and expanding those benefits in the short term and for posterity.