The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering aggressive moves to claim its authority over consumer access to the Internet as part of the Obama administration’s plan to treat broadband Internet as a national infrastructure similar to phone lines or the broadcast spectrum. Recently, a federal appeals court questioned the limits of the FCC in a 2008 case involving the Internet and cable firm Comcast, bringing the issue to a head. The judges questioned whether the FCC had acted outside of its authority when it ordered Comcast to stop blocking subscribers from accessing specific file-sharing services. Although the case is still being heard, analysts predict the FCC will lose, derailing its attempts to oversee Internet access. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has been pushing for net neutrality, but a loss in the Comcast case could undermine his authority. “If the court removes the legal basis for the current approach to broadband, the commission may be compelled to undertake a major reassessment of its policy framework … or Congress will have to act,” says the FCC’s Colin Crowell. That could mean that the FCC will put broadband services back into a category with phones services, reversing policies from the past decade.
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