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FCC Net paper is laissez-faire

An unofficial "working paper" released by the agency is consistent with its chairman's hands-off attitude towards the Net.

The Federal Communications Commission(FCC) wants the hands of government kept off the Internet.

The agency released a paper yesterday that advises government agencies, including the FCC itself, to limit regulation of Internet services. Entitled "Digital Tornado: The Internet and Telecommunications Policy," the paper was written by Kevin Werbach, counsel for new technology policy at the FCC.

The document is a "working paper" and is not an official statement by the FCC, according to a press release issued by the agency. Still, the paper is consistent with the hands-off attitude towards the Net often repeated by Reed Hundt, chairman of the FCC.

"Because it is not tied to traditional models or regulatory environments, the Internet holds the potential to dramatically change the communications landscape," the paper says.

"The Internet creates new forms of competition, valuable services for end users, and benefits to the economy. Government policy approaches toward the Internet should therefore start from two premises: avoid unnecessary regulation, and question the applicability of traditional rules."

In the paper, Werbach analyzes a variety of hot-button issues confronting--and often confusing--policy makers, including complaints by local telephone companies that Internet access is jamming their networks and the notion of universal Net access. He also discusses how the Internet fails to fit into FCC and federal rules regarding communications and broadcast services.

But the paper stops short of suggesting that the government should avoid Net regulation entirely. It describes several ways in which government government can potentially influence the evolution of the Internet, including directly regulating, participating in technical standards development, and restricting anticompetitive behavior by dominant firms