Just last week Google (NSDQ: GOOG) CEO Eric Schmidt pronounced network neutrality dead for the year. Shows you what he knows.
There’s been rampant speculation in recent days that Federal Communications Commission chief Julius Genachowski is angling to get long-delayed rules for broadband regulation on the agenda being announced tomorrow for the FCC’s last meeting of the year next month. He’s reportedly gathered various interested parties to reach the very compromise that has eluded him at every turn.
The timing of the gambit is no coincidence given this is Genachowski’s last chance to make good on his and President Obama’s promise to make some form of net neutrality happen before Republicans assume control of the House next year; a similar bill introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman was already sacked in September. . The rhetoric has already ratcheted up, with Republicans on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce firing off a letter warning off Genachowski. Verizon issued a hysterical press release yesterday demanding Congress push aside the FCC to rewrite telecom laws and even Glenn Beck saw fit to weigh in, warning the government was moving to “control what you see on the Internet.”
Exactly who is in control here is at issue here. Genachowski was seemingly marginalized by last April’s federal-court ruling regarding that the FCC lacked the authority to regulate broadband. That came in connection with the FCC’s determination that Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) engaged in traffic-throttling, so how’s this for a plot twist: Comcast is back in the picture now with its acquisition of NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) pending regulatory approval.
As The New York Times suggested yesterday, Comcast is going to end up a guinea pig for whatever net-neutrality guidelines are put in place. Besides the pre-emptive management announcement that riled regulators, the other big issue is making sure Comcast doesn’t abuse its clout in online video by either giving its own content assets preferential treatment in its pipeline, or discriminating against competitors. The Financial Times even suggested that there’s talk of whether retransmission consent fees need to be paid by online-video portals the way cable operators do.
Even if by some miracle Genachowski manages to put net-neutrality rules in place by year-end, you can bet we haven’t heard the last from concerned Republicans.