FCC Starts Broadband Reclassification Process

The Federal Communications Commission today voted 3-2 to issue a notice of inquiry that will formally begin the process of reclassifying broadband and enabling the agency to continue its efforts to regulate network neutrality and implement aspects of the National Broadband plan. We’ve outlined the approach the FCC said it would take; the official notice of inquiry asks questions that indicate the FCC is sticking to the original plan, asking consumers and industry players for their comments.

Comments from the public are due July 15, with those made in reply to the first set due on Aug. 12. Yesterday evening we ran a guest post explaining why your comments are so important in making sure that this process isn’t dominated by lobbyists working for the major ISPs, which are reluctant to see the FCC take steps to reclassify the underlying transport of bits as a service regulated by the agency.

Big ISPs such as AT&T (s T) and Verizon (s vz) are vehemently against the process, while some cable executives, such as Time Warner Cable’s CEO Glenn Britt, and several smaller ISPs see the FCC’s approach as reasonable. However, there’s also the threat of new telecommunications legislation from some members of Congress, which would have the effect of delaying any net neutrality regulations, as well as interfering with the reform of universal service and perhaps efforts to gather data on broadband service around the country.

There’s a lot going on in Washington this summer that’s closely tied to the tech industry, but this is a battle Silicon Valley needs to pay attention to, as it will both expand access to broadband for people through Universal Service Fund reform and ensure that the broadband pipe into the home that so many in the tech world depend on stays open for everyone. This isn’t an effort to regulate the Internet, but to ensure that someone is making sure we all have equal access to the pipes that make up the Internet.

Related GigaOM Pro research (sub req’d):
What Comcast’s Win Against the FCC Means for Broadband

The New Net-Neutrality Debate: What’s the Best Way to Discriminate?