House Democrats punt on net neutrality

Net neutrality was the Obama administration's top campaign pledge to the technology industry and a major priority of the current FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski
Net neutrality was the Obama administration's top campaign pledge to the technology industry and a major priority of the current FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski

In the latest development in the fight over so-called “net neutrality” regulations, House Democrats have shelved a last-ditch effort to broker a compromise between phone, cable, and internet companies on rules that would prohibit broadband providers from blocking or degrading online traffic flowing over their networks.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., abandoned the effort late on Sept. 29 in the face of Republican opposition to his proposed net-neutrality rules. Those rules were intended to prevent broadband providers from becoming online gatekeepers by playing favorites with traffic.

The battle over net neutrality has pitted public interest groups and internet companies such as Google Inc. and Skype against the nation’s big phone and cable companies, including AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., and Comcast Corp.…Read More

FCC votes to reconsider broadband regulations

The FCC's decision could have important implications for schools, many of which favor net-neutrality rules.
The FCC's decision could have important implications for schools, many of which favor net-neutrality rules.

Federal regulators are reconsidering the rules that govern high-speed internet connections, wading into a bitter policy dispute that could be tied up in Congress and the courts for years. The dispute has important implications for schools and colleges, many of which are hoping for clear rules that prevent service providers from discriminating against certain types of internet traffic.

Over the objections of the agency’s two Republican commissioners, the Federal Communications Commission voted June 17 to begin taking public comments on three different paths for regulating broadband. These include a proposal by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, to define broadband access as a telecommunications service subject to “common carrier” obligations to treat all traffic equally.

Genachowski’s proposal is a response to a federal appeals court ruling this past spring that cast doubt on the agency’s authority over broadband under its existing regulatory framework.…Read More

Could net-neutrality ruling hinder online education?

Genachowski's net neutrality and national broadband plans are in danger after the April 6 court ruling.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's net-neutrality and national broadband plans are in danger after an April 6 court ruling.

A federal court threw the future of internet regulations and U.S. broadband expansion plans into doubt April 6 with a far-reaching decision that went against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The ruling poses a major hurdle for federal policy that school and college administrators hoped would ensure the growth of online education and make high-speed internet affordable for even the smallest school systems and campuses.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the FCC lacks the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all internet traffic flowing over their networks. That was a big victory for Comcast Corp., the nation’s largest cable company, which had challenged the FCC’s authority to impose such “net neutrality” obligations on broadband providers.

The ruling marks a serious setback for the FCC, which is trying to adopt official net-neutrality regulations. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, argues that such rules are needed to prevent phone and cable companies from using their control over internet access to favor some online content and services over others.…Read More

Broadband access gap remains large

With 40 percent of U.S. homes without broadband, educators continue the push to close the digital divide.
With 40 percent of U.S. homes without broadband, educators continue the push to close the digital divide.

Roughly 40 percent of Americans do not have high-speed internet access at home, according to new Commerce Department figures that reinforce what some educators believe is causing some students to fall behind.

That number of households without high-speed internet access also underscores the challenges facing policy makers who are trying to bring affordable broadband connections to everyone.

The Obama administration and Congress have identified universal broadband as a key to driving economic development, producing jobs, and bringing educational opportunities and cutting-edge medicine to all corners of the country.…Read More

Wireless mic frequency change could affect colleges

Faculty members might have to use new wireless microphones after a recent FCC ruling.
Instructors might have to use new wireless microphones in lecture halls after a recent FCC ruling.

Colleges and universities that use wireless microphones operating on the 700 megahertz (MHz) frequency band have until June 12 to change the radio frequency or buy new equipment, according to a Jan. 15 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The FCC’s decision is part of a larger government effort to clear the 700 MHz band for use by cell phones, digital TV transmissions, and emergency communications. About 25 percent of the country’s wireless microphones will have to be modified or replaced, according to federal projections.

The ruling affects schools, colleges, sports stadiums, churches, theater groups, musicians, and others who rely on wireless microphones to amplify sound. Some colleges using wireless mics to help their instructors or performers be heard more clearly could end up spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars to replace the banned equipment.…Read More