ACA: Title II Classification Must Go

The American Cable Association says that the FCC's reclassification of broadband as a common carrier service in the Title II-based 2015 Open Internet order was a mistake from a legal and policy perspective, and FCC chairman Ajit Pai is simply trying to correct it. The association is also skeptical about the need for rules against blocking, throttling or discrimination.

Pai has proposed rolling back Title II, eliminating the general conduct standard and asked whether bright-line rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization are needed.

ACA filed comments on the proposal, which were due July 17. 

"Without question, the FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai is headed in the right direction and needs to end the unnecessary and burdensome utility-style Title II regulation of the Internet imposed by the 2015 Open Internet Order," said ACA president Matt Polka. "The FCC should reinstate a light-touch regulatory approach that will reverse the decline in broadband infrastructure investment, innovation and options for consumers the FCC's misguided 2015 Order set in motion."

ACA also applauded the proposed deep-sixing of the general conduct standard, which was billed as a way to get at conduct that might not violate the bright-line rules but could otherwise impede a free and open internet.

The standard "was not only ill conceived and unnecessary, it was hopelessly vague and open-ended," said ACA, "leaving broadband ISPs guessing about what behaviors the FCC would find unacceptable after-the-fact, particularly regarding service terms and pricing." 

As to the rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, ACA says it is skeptical that such ex ante (before-the-fact) rules are justifiable given "the lack of widespread problems with ISP handling of traffic or otherwise," particularly as applies to the smaller operators ACA represents. 

"[T]here is no threat, that smaller ISPs would block, throttle or otherwise discriminate against Internet edge providers because doing so would not allow them to extract any consideration from the comparably larger actors who operate on the Internet’s edge and any attempt to do so would only result in these smaller ISPs angering and losing subscribers to competitors due to their impairment of their customers’ Internet experience," it told the FCC.

ACA is not asking that the transparency rules go away but wants the FCC to reduce the "complexity of compliance."

(Photo via Rock1997Image taken on Jan. 18, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 3x4 aspect ratio.)

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.