- Legal Framework
- About Broadband
Online FAQ on the Third Way
In This FAQ
- What is the "third way" legal approach?
- Is the FCC proposing to regulate the Internet?
- What is the scope of the proposal?
- What does this mean for investors, ISPs, entrepreneurs, and consumers?
- What does this mean for the Open Internet proceeding?
- Does this mean broadband prices will go up?
- How does this impact the National Broadband Plan?
- Does Congress need to pass a law for this to happen?
- What happens next?
What is the "third way" legal approach?
Chairman Genachowski announced that he would ask his fellow Commissioners to join him in seeking public comment on a proposed light-touch framework to address the serious legal issues posed by the Comcast case and to preserve the FCC’s traditional deregulatory treatment of broadband communications services. There is a longstanding consensus that the government should not regulate the Internet, and that basic consumer protections apply to broadband access services – the “on-ramps” consumers use to access the Internet. A court decision last month in a case called Comcast v. FCC cast serious doubt on the legal foundation for those commonsense policies. The announcement proposes a way forward to rebuild that legal foundation.
Is the FCC proposing to regulate the Internet?
No. The core principle of the proposal is that the government must not regulate the Internet. The proposed legal foundation would apply only to the on-ramps used to access the Internet—the transport component of broadband services such as DSL or cable modem services that consumers subscribe to from their phone and cable companies in order to access the Internet.
The Commission is committed to keeping the Internet as an unregulated forum for innovation, education, job creation, and free speech.
What is the scope of the proposal?
It is a narrow and tailored legal proposal to restore the status quo that existed before the Comcast decision. The Commission’s light-touch policy goals remain unchanged. The proposed legal foundation relates only to broadband access—not to the content, applications, and services offered on the Internet. And it involves only a few provisions of Title II whose application to broadband access has been widely supported.
This is the same legal framework that the Commission has applied to wireless telephone service—a successful light-touch model that has been widely praised.
What does this mean for investors, ISPs, entrepreneurs, and consumers?
No change. The proposal is to restore the pre-Comcast status quo: The FCC will have the ability to address complaints as they arise while eschewing overly burdensome rules for an emerging, changing marketplace. In addition, the FCC will keep Internet content, applications, and services unregulated while retaining the ability to promote and protect access to the Internet. The only difference is that a firm legal foundation for a hands-off policy will provide greater certainty and confidence to investors, ISPs, entrepreneurs, and consumers than currently exists in the wake of the Comcast decision.
What does this mean for the Open Internet proceeding?
The proposed framework would simply restore the legal status quo, providing a sound legal foundation for reasonable, commonsense open Internet principles. The Open Internet proceeding will continue—Commission staff is currently reviewing the thousands of reply comments that came in last week.
Does this mean broadband prices will go up?
No. This proposal should not affect any broadband provider’s costs. The only effect of this proposal is to restore the pre-existing consensus approach to a firm legal foundation. The proposal would not impose rate regulations on broadband providers.
How does this impact the National Broadband Plan?
This proposed framework dispels uncertainty. It restores a solid legal foundation for FCC policies to implement the National Broadband Plan.
Does Congress need to pass a law for this to happen?
No. But if congressional leaders decide to take up legislation in the future to clarify the statute and the agency’s jurisdiction with respect to broadband, the FCC stands ready to be a resource.
What happens next?
The FCC’s Commissioners will soon vote on whether to begin a process to seek public input on the proposed light-touch framework. That process would, in a single, integrated proceeding:
- Recognize the transmission component of broadband access service—and only this component—as a telecommunications service;
- Apply six provisions of Title II—Sections 201, 202, 208, 222 (consumer privacy), 254 (universal service), and 255 (access for individuals with disabilities)—that, prior to the Comcast decision, were widely believed to be within the Commission’s purview for broadband;
- Simultaneously renounce—that is, forbear from—application of the many sections of the Communications Act that are unnecessary and inappropriate for broadband access service; and
- Put in place up-front forbearance and meaningful boundaries to guard against regulatory overreach.
The Commission will seek public input on the proposal and on other possible approaches to these issues. The Commission looks forward to learning from that process and refining its thinking as it moves forward.