ACA to FCC: Exclude Smaller MSOs from Title II Regime

The American Cable Association continues to argue that the FCC need not and should not reclassify Internet access as a Title II common carrier service to any cable operators, full stop. But if the FCC is not stopped by those arguments, says ACA, it should exclude smaller operators from the new regulatory regime.

In a Jan. 12 filing with the commission, ACA says that the FCC lacks the authority to compel common carrier status on ISP's simply to achieve policy [objectives]." That, it says, would be against the law and exceed the FCC's authority.

But FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has suggested he had an "aha' moment when considering how wireless phone service had flourished under Title II and signaled last week that the FCC was likely to apply Title II to wired, and likely wireless, broadband access services, at least the parts that would prevent blocking, discrimination and paid priority.

ACA said that assuming, for the sake of argument, that the FCC did go that route, it should forbear any Title II regs to smaller operators, including sections 201, 202 and 208, the sections the FCC would likely not forbear.

"Immediate and blanket forbearance would mitigate many of the potential and significant harms that otherwise would result from reclassification," ACA said. "The case for blanket forbearance is particularly strong for ACA members because, as smaller ISPs, it is evident that they wholly lack the market power over edge providers or in their local markets that would justify any need for regulation," it added.

Wheeler has signaled he plans a Feb. 26 vote on new open Internet rules, and that Title II is the likely route to restoring the old rules thrown out by a federal court for lack of sufficient legal justification.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.