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CFA: FCC Needs Network 'Reality' Rules

The Consumer Federation of America tells the FCC that its new network neutrality rules need to reflect the "reality" of the 21st century digital economy, which means using its authority to promote broadband deployment under Sec. 706 of the communications act to maintain the virtuous cycle of innovation and investment.

That is in comments to the commission on its latest proposal to come up with network neutrality rules that will pass court muster.

CFA director of research Mark Cooper says that rules are needed because "if [communications owners] are allowed to pursue their interests in an unfettered, unregulated manner, there is no doubt that they will undermine the virtuous cycle."

While many groups are calling for Title II, Cooper says the FCC should begin by using its authority under Sec. 706, as FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed.

Cooper said the FCC should expand the scope and effectiveness of its transparency rule—which the court did not remand—to involve consumers "at all phases of development and enforcement network neutrality rules," and then "either identify new telecommunications services involving edge companies or reclassify broadband Internet access service as a telecommunications service."

Cooper suggests resorting to Title II common carrier regs should depend on the threat level.

"The extent to which Title II authority is asserted should reflect the nature of the network owner threat to the virtuous cycle and the fact that utility regulation was designed form homogeneous static environments and is ill-suited to the diverse, dynamic environment of the digital economy," he says.

Wheeler has said that he prefers taking the 706 approach, but will use Title II if he has to.