CPUC punts on putting broadband under common carrier rules

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Regulating broadband infrastructure under common carrier rules – also known as Title II of federal telecoms law – is dead, at least as far as the California Public Utilities Commission is concerned. Commissioners won’t be voting on whether or not to advise the FCC to solve the network neutrality debate by applying a traditional, telephone-style regulatory regime to Internet service providers.

The question was scheduled to be discussed at this morning’s CPUC meeting in San Francisco, but yesterday afternoon it was abruptly “withdrawn” from the agenda. That’s more than a simple delay. Its been pushed off several times already, most dramatically a month ago when three commissioners – a majority – initially voted to endorse common carrier-style regulation of broadband infrastructure.

It only lasted an hour. After what seemed to be blatant arm-twisting by CPUC president Michael Peevey, commissioner Carla Peterman pulled back her aye vote. Peevey put the question on hold for two weeks, then Peterman iced it for another two.

Which brings us to today’s meeting. Another commissioner could have asked for another two week delay, but that didn’t happen. So instead of moving to what could have been a final vote, for or against common carrier rules, the entire issue was deep sixed yesterday.

It still might be resurrected. Peevey is a lame duck. If you assume – not unreasonably – that he had a hand in killing it, then come January, when someone else will preside, it could be reintroduced.

Or maybe sooner. As a former commissioner once explained to me in moment of four-martini candor, CPUC policy is whatever three commissioners says it is. Stay tuned.