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WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to testify today before the Senate Commerce Committee on the Commission's National Broadband Plan. Free Press is calling on the agency to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service to give the National Broadband Plan firm legal footing.

According to numerous analysts and the FCC's own general counsel, the recent Comcast v. FCC federal court decision places in doubt the agency's authority to carry out many of the most important aspects of the National Broadband Plan. This jurisdictional crisis stems from past FCC decisions to classify broadband networks as "information services," a break from past FCC precedent and the framework of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Free Press is encouraging FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to relabel broadband as a telecommunications service to ensure the agency has the authority to implement the National Broadband Plan and to finally bring the United States up to the levels of broadband access of other leading nations.

S. Derek Turner, research director of Free Press, made the following statement:

“Chairman Genachowski must move quickly to reverse the Bush-era FCC's misguided classification of broadband Internet access as an integrated information service. The federal court ruling has made it clear that past errors have crippled the FCC's ability to put the public interest ahead of big corporations. With strong leadership from Mr. Genachowski, the Commission will be able to adopt policies to preserve the value of the open Internet, bring broadband to rural and low-income Americans, and provide consumers with basic protections. Failure to act decisively and quickly will only embolden the special interest lobbies that have fought against public interest policies and jeopardize both the open Internet and the National Broadband Plan's chances for success.

“The chairman should ignore the cynical lobbying efforts by AT&T, Verizon and Comcast that seek to render the FCC powerless to protect consumers. The Commission's authority over issues like universal service, emergency preparedness, customer privacy, nondiscrimination and access for the disabled must be ironclad. It is unthinkable for the FCC not to have clear authority to protect consumers on the nation’s dominant communications medium.

“I cannot put it any better than Sen. John Kerry did today, “The FCC can act right now.' ”

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