FCC Changes & Net Neutrality

Last Friday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced he would be stepping down from the Commission. Today, The Hill‘s Brendan Sasso highlights what could be a major challenge for Genachowski’s successor:

The next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could face a high-stakes and politically explosive decision.

If a federal court strikes down the commission’s net neutrality rules, the next chairman will have to decide whether and how to try to reinstate them.

The next chairman’s response to a negative court ruling could spark a vicious fight with congressional Republicans on one hand, or leave the agency almost powerless to regulate modern technologies on the other.

Sasso goes on to report that the outgoing Chairman believes the FCC’s net neutrality rules will stand:

In an interview on Friday, Genachowski said he is confident that the commission will defeat Verizon’s challenge, noting that the same court recently sided with the FCC over data-roaming regulations.

“I think that we won the debate on whether to have an open Internet and whether the government has an appropriate role,” Genachowski said, adding that he believes the regulations have spurred innovation and investment. He declined to comment about the potential for reclassification.

Of course, Genachowski wasn’t the only member of the FCC to announce he was leaving. Commissioner Robert McDowell also announced his departure last week, and in an interview with Jon Brodkin of Ars Technica, he took a parting shot at the Commission’s net neutrality work:

First of all, I’ve been a strong advocate for a free and open Internet. What I opposed really focused on, first of all, there is no market failure that needed to be addressed. Second, the FCC did not have the statutory authority to do what it did. Third, if there had been a problem there were laws already on the books that would have addressed the problem.

There wasn’t a problem before the rules and there’s not a problem with any danger of a closed Internet in this country after the rules. For those who think the rules have preserved an open Internet, that’s sort of like a rooster taking credit for the sunrise.