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Mayors To Consider Resolution Urging FCC to Classify Internet Like a Utility

When the U.S. Conference of Mayors gathers in Dallas this weekend, among the many resolutions they will consider is one urging the FCC to take a controversial step as a way to establish strong net neutrality rules.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild have proposed a resolution calling on the FCC to reclassify the Internet as a telecommunications service, a move that would give the agency the same kind of regulatory authority it has over utilities like telephone service.

Major Internet providers oppose such a move, and argue that it would stifle growth and innovation of broadband as carriers face a bevy of new regulation.

The authors of the resolution argue that such a step would “give the FCC the ability to guarantee a free and open Internet, securing a commitment to transparency and the free flow of information over the internet, including no blocking of lawful websites and no unreasonable discrimination of lawful network traffic.” The mayors will vote on the resolution on Monday.

The FCC is in the midst of an open comment period as it considers how to rewrite the rules of the road for the Internet after a D.C. appeals court judge in January struck down significant portions of the agency’s previous net neutrality order.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler proposed rules that prohibit commercially unreasonable practices by Internet providers, but critics question whether such a standard would prevent Internet providers from creating a tiered structure where some traffic gets to consumers at faster speeds than others. But Wheeler also is keeping open the option of  reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service, something that would give the agency a more solid legal footing to write stronger rules.

The mayors also will consider a resolution from Madison, Wis. Mayor Paul Soglin to urge the FCC to preempt state laws that prohibit cities from offering their own broadband service as competition to Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and other Internet providers.

“If the people, acting through their elected local governments, want to pursue competitive community broadband, they shouldn’t be stopped by state laws promoted by cable and telephone companies that don’t want that competition,” Wheeler wrote in a blog post last week.


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