Executives from five broadband suppliers said Wednesday they're concerned that new regulations would cause broadband providers to slow their investments in network expansion and upgrades.
"If people like Verizon start slowing down their investment in networking infrastructure, we're going to be hit pretty hard," said Noam Lotan, CEO of MRV Communications, a California manufacturer of networking equipment. "Any regulation you start introducing, the first thing that will happen is uncertainty."
While this FCC may back away from widespread regulation of broadband, future commissions may not, said Bruce Mehlman, co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance, a broadband deployment advocacy group with members including AT&T and Alcatel-Lucent.
"While an enlightened Chairman like Genachowski may indeed bring a light touch during his tenure, regulatory agencies tend to ultimately use all of the authority in their arsenal and more, and that would be bad for broadband," Mehlman said.
Comcast, in the center of the controversy, said it was disappointed by the FCC's move to regulate broadband. However, the broadband provider is prepared to work with the agency to determine if there is a compromise way to "take limited but effective measures to preserve an open Internet and implement critical features of the National Broadband Plan, but does not cast the kind of regulatory cloud that would chill investment and innovation by ISPs," said Sena Fitzmaurice, vice president of government communications for Comcast.
Others were more upbeat about Genachowski's announcement.
Public Knowledge, a supporter of new net neutrality rules, is "generally pleased" with the direction outlined by Genachowski, although it is concerned that agency officials suggested they would stay away from requiring broadband providers to share their lines with competitors, said Gigi Sohn, the organization's president.
"We have said for months that the right path for the commission to take would be to examine all the possibilities for the best way to protect consumers and guarantee the expansion of broadband," she said in an email. "The method the FCC is expected to propose should be on the table, and we are glad it is."
The "Title II lite" approach is the right one, added Tyrone Brown, president of Media Access Project, a media reform group and net neutrality backer. The FCC's new approach will protect free speech rights of Internet users, he said.
"This is a defining moment for Chairman Genachowski," Brown said in a statement. "He was the object of a massive lobbying campaign mounted by some of the most powerful corporations in the country, and he held his ground. The telephone and cable companies fought this outcome because they know that the alternative ... is difficult if not impossible under the recent court decision in Comcast v. FCC."