(Reuters) – The U.S. could regain its authority to pursue both network neutrality and widespread access to broadband by formally reclassifying Internet access as “telecommunications services,” a former adviser to President Obama said in a published report on Sunday.
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Susan Crawford, who was a special assistant to the President for science, technology and innovation policy, wrote in the New York Times that, before it can reclassify Internet access, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has to prove “good reason”.
Crawford, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, was writing in response to the Federal appeals court ruling last week that the FCC lacks the legal authority to tell Comcast Corp not to block certain uses of its Internet access services.
Comcast, which is the No.1 TV and Internet service provider to U.S. homes, had been found to slow down access to file-sharing services used for sharing TV and movies by users.
The court ruling was seen as a major roadblock to the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s communications policy.
Among other things, the plan proposes to spend billions of dollars to help provide Internet access, rather than phone access for people in rural areas.
Crawford said if Internet access is reclassified as “telecommunications services” rather than as “information services,” it would make it easier to tell providers of high-speed Internet access what to do.
“The FCC has the legal authority to change the label, as long as it can provide a good reason,” she wrote.
Wall Street analysts have commented that such a move would increase the regulatory risk on investing in cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable as well as phone companies like AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications.
The possible reclassification of Internet access services by regulators has been described by Bernstein Research analyst Craig Moffett as the “nuclear option”.
(Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; editing by Gunna Dickson)