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ACA to FCC: Third Way Would Be big Burden

The American Cable Association says that reclassifying broadband as a Title II service will have immediate and significant economic impact on the small and mid-sized cable/telecom companies it represents.

That came in reply comments filed late Thursday at the commission. ACA argued that while the other side of the Title II debate is frequently characterized as corporate behemoths and big phone companies, the impact would be just as great on its members and arguably more so given their relatively smaller size.

While the FCC has indicated it is not interested in regulating rates, ACA says the effect of the move will include "direct economic regulation of the rates, terms, conditions and practices associated with the provision of Internet service and the
administrative recordkeeping, reporting and filing obligations of common carriers under the Commission's rules."

And even that is just the tip of an economic iceberg, ACA argues. Among the direct effects, it says, will be "vastly increased" pole attachment rates as well as recordkeeping burdens, disability access compliance, legal expenses and a host of other indirect "burdens" having to to with providing a stand-alone telecommunications service.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is proposing defining broadband transmission as a telecommunications service under Title II common carrier regs (the so-called "third way") but leaving content and applications under a lightly regulated Title I information service regime.

ACA also argues that reclassification could subject its members to local and state telecom regs and taxes.

The group also echoed its argument in initial comments that the FCC not only should not declare broadband access a telecom service, it can't legally, at least not without going through the proper procedures. "The cumulative impact of the new regulatory burdens associated with common carrier status means that the Commission cannot go directly from the Notice of Inquiry to a declaratory ruling that has the force of law and alters the default regulatory classification of broadband Internet service," the gruop said. Instead, the gruop said, it must initiate a rulemaking process with formal notice and comment periods and regulatory flexibility analyses.

ACA says that if the FCC is going to change the regulatory status, it must either conduct the rulemaking proceeding beforehand, or stay the effectiveness of any declarations until such proceeding is completed.