FCC chair calls for more Internet regulation

Julius Genachowski says broadband service lags in U.S.

Acknowledging that a court ruling in April undermined the government's ability to regulate the Internet, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said regulators will draw up more narrowly defined rules to govern the information superhighway.

Later, Genachowski said his agency would initiate a review of how retransmission consent between broadcasters and cable TV works.

Regarding the net neutrality ruling, Genachowski -- speaking on the third day of the NCTA's Cable Show -- said the court decision in the Comcast case "damaged the legal foundation underneath the policies of promoting broadband adoption, lowering the cost of investment (and) promoting investment, innovation and competition."

But he vowed the FCC would "reject the doing-nothing extreme" in the ruling's aftermath.

"What our staff has developed is a narrow and legal approach that has barriers against regulatory creep," he said.

In a dialogue with NCTA chief Kyle McSlarrow, Genachowski praised the industry's $160 million broadband infrastructure investment of the past decade but said the U.S. still lags others in the availability and use of broadband services. Both agreed that outreach is need to serve the one-fourth of the U.S. population lacking computers and public schools without broadband access.

The FCC and the industry "recognize it would be desirable for consumers to have an easy, integrated way to navigate their pay TV, video over the Internet and other video they buy," Genachowski said.

The regulator called the situation a "classic triangle of consumers, innovation and competition." The iPad and Kindle should help spread access to technology, he said.

"The 21st century is going to be about the information grid," Genachowski said. "It's not going to be appliances but information."

That should fuel jobs growth, he added.

Meantime, McSlarrow said Google acts like a competitor to cable in taking a contrary view on so-called net neutrality, even though the two share the broadband spectrum.

"This issue isn't about Google," Genachowski replied. "This is about the next Google, the next eBay, the next Amazon. It's about speakers who don't want to be censored on the Internet ... and making sure consumers ... can connect to whatever is on the Internet."

The Obama team has tried to "run a commission that operates differently than it has before with the "most open and transparent" FCC ever," he said.

Genachowski said commissioners have empowered agency staff "to take advantage of the marketplace of ideas, to do a better job."

Genachowski also noted there is also a review going forward into media ownership rules, which the FCC is obligated to do every so often, and that will happen this year. He said an upcoming hearing in California is part of the process.

A spokesman for the NCTA said attendance at the show was about 13,000 this year, up from the 12,000 who attended last year's show in Washington. He said the number of exhibitors held steady at slightly more than 350.

The NCTA convention moves to Chicago next year, followed by Boston and then Washington again.