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Analysis : Consumer Bills Could Soar Under Title II

Consumers' broadband bills could go up close to $90 a year if the FCC reclassifies Internet access service under Title II common carrier regs, according to an analysis by the *Hal Singer of the Progressive Policy Institute and **Robert Litan of Brookings.

According to a paper being released today (Dec. 1), the average increase in state and local fees on wireline, and potentially wireless, broadband, would be $67 and $72 annually, plus an added $17 per year in federal fees.

Added together, they argue that reclassification could add up to $17 billion new fees on top of the $1.5 billion the FCC is planning to add to the E-rate Universal Service Fund to promote higher-speed broadband connections to schools and libraries.

The Singer and Litan argue that is on top of the reduced investment and slower innovation they say would result from Title II reclassification. Both are on the record arguing that reclassifying Internet access under Title II will not prevent the charging for priority delivery that the President and others have argued needs to be prevented to keep ISP's from "shaking down" vulnerable Webs sites.

The FCC is currently contemplating Title II reclassification, some form of hybrid Title II and Sec. 706 authority, or a Sec. 706 approach to restoring no-blocking and no-unreasonable discrimination rules thrown out by a federal court. But there has been increased pressure to go the Title II route from network neutrality advocates, including the President of the United States.

"We're still reviewing the claims made in the latest PPI release, but will note for now that its premises are all wrong before we even look at the math," said Matt Wood, policy director for Title II fans Free Press, who did not sugar coat the group's disdain for the document.

"Page 1 of the PPI missive claims that Title II would make broadband providers into utilities. That's patently false. Wireless voice is covered by Title II, as are those business-grade broadband services....Buzzwords and scare tactics around words like utility may make for good press releases, but that doesn't make them true.

"It's hard to take the numbers seriously when the so-called study starts from so many flawed and false assumptions," Said Wood.

*Hal Singer is a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, and is a principal at Economists Incorporated, where he has been a consultant to telecommunications firms.

**Robert Litan is a senior fellow at Brookings and Of Counsel at Korein Tillery. He is former deputy assistant attorney General in the Antitrust Division at the Department of Justice.