Thursday, November 2, 2006

FCC Classifies Broadband over Powerline as Information Service

The FCC declared Broadband over Power Line (BPL)-enabled Internet access service to be an information service, putting the technology on an equal regulatory footing with other broadband access methods, such as cable modem service and DSL service.

Specifically, the FCC ruled that the transmission component underlying BPL-enabled Internet access service is "telecommunications," and that the provision of this telecommunications transmission component as part of a functionally integrated, finished BPL-enabled Internet access service offering is an information service.

In a statement, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said "by finding that broadband over power line (BPL) Internet access services are information services, the Commission provides the regulatory certainty necessary to foster competition between different broadband platform providers. I believe that it is the Commission's responsibility to help ensure technological and competitive neutrality in communications markets. Accordingly, I believe that all providers of the same service must be treated in the same manner regardless of the technology that they employ."

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps concurred with the ruling but said in a statement that he hoped for more: "We seem to proceed on the happy presumption that if providers are free from legacy Title II regulation they will magically devote their attention and capital to building broadband infrastructure. The results? Well, after several years of Title I reclassification, not many. As other nations race at warp speed into the digital future, this one plods along at turtle velocity. While I dearly hope that BPL providers make real inroads into the cable-telephone broadband duopoly that we have in this country, I really don't think our international standing in broadband is going to improve until this nation develops a real honest-to-goodness broadband strategy, just as every other industrialized nation has done. Consumers want -- and consumers deserve -- some real competition in this critical market. But avoiding the tough regulatory questions and merely renaming things is not going to usher in that happy result. We are not providing the kind of certainty that business requires, nor any assurance to consumers about what rights they have in the new world of high speed which we hope some day to inhabit. The issues I am talking about today don't go away just because we call something by a different name. I would much rather see this Commission spending more time addressing real-world broadband needs and less time parsing regulatory language without filling in the blanks."

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