Four Democratic senators today urged the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee to reject any attempts to block the FCC from using its legal authority to regulate broadband Internet service.
In a letter to Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye and ranking member Thad Cochran, the senators said they oppose proposals floated by Senate Commerce ranking member Kay Bailey Hutchison and some House GOP appropriators limiting the agency's authority.
The Republicans want to attach legislation to the FY11 spending bill funding the FCC that would bar the commission from using any money to reclassify some aspects of broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act.
The FCC is set to vote Thursday to seek comment on this "third way" proposal from FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and other approaches. Genachowski offered the proposal after the FCC's authority over broadband was put in doubt following a federal appeals court ruling in April.
Hutchison, who also sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and other Republicans say Genachowski's proposal will stifle broadband investment and innovation.
"Seeking public comment on all available approaches is a reasonable and responsible way to move forward, and we should give it increased clarity and definition through the legislative process. Congress should not block its consideration," wrote Senate Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., joined by Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
"The Communications Act articulates and gives life to the idea that our communications networks should be open, accessible, ubiquitous, and affordable. Those values did not die with the invention of the Internet nor did the commission's responsibility to act on them," they added.
Kerry and other panel leaders have said they will work together to craft legislation that would address the legal uncertainty over broadband created by the appeals court decision.
This article appears in the June 19, 2010 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.