Archive for January 13th, 2012

CES: FCC’s Genachowski Calls Net-Neutrality Lawsuit ‘Distracting’

Verizon Is Challenging Agency’s Authority to Impose Internet Regulations

By Todd Spangler — Multichannel News, 1/11/2012 6:20:19 PM

Las Vegas — FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said Verizon Communications’ lawsuit challenging the agency’s network-neutrality regulations was “distracting” and could create uncertainty and confusion in the market.

Genachowski, in his third appearance at CES, primarily used the stage Wednesday to stump for his favorite issue — pushing TV broadcasters to auction off their spectrum to be used for wireless broadband.

On network neutrality, Genachowski said he was proud of the outcome, which he claimed has not hampered investment in broadband networks and applications.

The FCC’s network-neutrality regulations, which went into effect Nov. 20, require Internet service providers to disclose network management techniques and forbids them from blocking or degrading specific content or applications.

Genachowski, who was interviewed by Consumer Electronics Association president Gary Shapiro, said the FCC was “tempted to focus on other things” but that he felt he needed to take action on network neutrality to bring about a détente between network providers and technology companies.

“I thought we had to bring peace to the land,” he said. “I’m proud of the result — our goal was to see increased investment in the broadband economy.”

About 80% of companies supported the FCC’s network neutrality rules, according to Genachowski. Alluding to Verizon’s lawsuit, which argues that the agency does not have authority to regulate the Internet, he said, “It’s a distracting lawsuit that runs the risk of creating uncertainty, unpredictably and confusion as we move forward.”

On the “spectrum crunch” issue, Genachowski repeated his call to repurpose TV airwaves for mobile broadband. He said voluntary spectrum auctions would generate $25 billion in cash for the U.S. Treasury, and — more important — make additional capacity available for new services.

“My message today on incentive auctions is simple: We need to get it done now and we need to get it done right,” he said.

Congress is to make a decision on a law enabling the FCC to proceed with incentive auctions by March 1. “At stake is U.S. leadership in mobile,” Genachowski said.

Genachowski noted that New York City has 28 full-power TV stations. “I grew up in New York and I don’t think anyone can name 28 TV stations,” he said. “What’s the right number for New York?… The beauty of incentive auctions is, the market will decide.”

In terms of future initiatives, Genachowski acknowledged that the Communications Act of 1996 “should be updated,” but he didn’t get into specifics and said a reform to the law is “not something that is actively being considered.”

“I’ve been very careful to focus on the things I really want to get done,” Genachowski said.

In his prepared remarks, Genachowski marveled at the broad range of products on the CES show floor: “Where else can you find a USB stick that is also a bottle opener?”

“Virtually every product on the CES floor is fueled by broadband Internet,” he said. “If you shut off the Internet, virtually nothing on the show floor would work.”

Shapiro cited the 2012 presidential election, pointing out that if a Republican beats President Obama, Genachowski could be out of a job. Asked by Shapiro what Genachowski wanted to be his legacy, the chairman identified focusing the FCC on broadband and working to unleash wireless spectrum. “We have a lot of work to do in 2012,” he said.

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