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FCC Delays Decision On Wireless Broadband

September 2, 2010

On Wednesday, U.S. communications regulators delayed a decision on Internet traffic rules, buying more time for the politically sensitive issue ahead of the November elections.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been trying to find harmony for months on a debate over whether high-speed Internet providers should be allowed to give preferential treatment to content providers who pay for faster transmission.

Broadband and Internet companies have held a series of meetings this summer to find a way to treat Internet data that is flowing through home connections and wireless devices.

However, those talks failed because of the big differences over the treatment of wireless broadband. 

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski delayed deciding whether to impose stricter regulations that are opposed by broadband providers.  He said he would like to know how companies and consumers will be impacted if wireless devices are treated differently from home broadband lines.

“We have made progress over the last year — but we still have work to do,” Genachowski said, according to Reuters.

Analysts said the chairman wants to tread carefully before the elections coming in November.

They also said it was unlikely the FCC would adopt draft proposals during a September 23 meeting or in October.

“The chairman could cite progress in the industry talks as grounds for delaying circulating a draft order, and postpone a decision until after the election,” Nicolaus Stifel analyst Rebecca Arbogast told Reuters.

Analysts said that democrats are afraid Republicans will portray any FCC action to voters as an attempt by President Barack Obama and his party to control and regulate the Internet.

Some broadband providers point to a proposal Google Inc. and Verizon Communications unveiled earlier this month as a sign for progression.  Their plan would give providers a more flexible way to help manage wireless broadband traffic, as well as possibly create a fast lane.

“Even a proposal that accepts enforceable rules can be flawed in its specifics and risk undermining the fundamental goal of preserving the open Internet,” Genachowski said in a statement seeking another 55 day-comment period.

Proponents of net neutrality argue that consumers will be harmed if carriers create a two-tiered Internet, with the top tier offering faster speeds at a premium.

Phone service providers like AT&T Inc. and Verizon said they need to prioritize traffic on wireless networks because of congestion.

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