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Senate hearings urged over FCC decision

The Consumer Federation of America and the Consumers Union are asking Congress to review upcoming rule changes from the Federal Communications Commission.

Two consumer groups on Wednesday demanded that lawmakers overturn a recent Federal Communications Commission decision to deregulate the broadband industry.

FCC commissioners voted 3-2 last month to eliminate rules forcing broadband network owners to dramatically discount what they charge competitors to use their high-speed Web networks. The FCC kept in place the same rules, which are meant to spur competition, for telephone network owners.

The Consumer Federation of America and the Consumers Union on Wednesday demanded the Senate's Commerce Committee conduct hearings about the decision. Both Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., the committee's chairman, and Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., the committee's leading member, did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

"For the first time in our history, communications could end up operated by private carriers on a closed, proprietary basis with no obligations to interconnect, interoperate or provide nondiscriminatory access for the public," the groups wrote in letters to the two senators.

The consumer groups argue that Congress, which represents a broader range of interests than the FCC, should make the decision. "Public policy decisions with such massive implications should flow directly from Congress and not be conjured up through 'legal jujitsu,'" they wrote to lawmakers.

The two consumer groups are the latest to opine about the FCC's decision. Major telephone companies are unhappy with the decision as well. The Bells will likely turn to the court system to get the FCC decision overturned, believing it doesn't go far enough to deregulate telephone and broadband networks.

Broadband providers that relied on the rules, including Covad Communications, stand to lose most of their consumer business.