Democrats Take Aim at Title II

Free Press is looking to get out in front of a couple of
letters being circulated among Republicans and Democrats taking aim at FCC
Chairman Julius Genachowski's plan to classify the transmission portion of
broadband as a Title II telecommunications service subject to at least a few of
the common carrier regs applied to such services.

One letter is from Gene Green (D-Tex.) and at least 73
other House Democrats, who say the Title II proposal will jepoardize jobs and
deter investment. Addressed to the chairman, the letter says that they have
"serious concerns" about the plan.

"The expanded FCC jurisdiction over broadband that
has been proposed and the manner in which it would be implemented are
unprecedented and create regulatory uncertainty," they write. "The controversy
surrounding that approach will likely serve as a distraction from what should
be our Nation's foremost communications priority: bringing broadband to every
corner of America, getting every American online, and providing the high-speed
connections needed to realize the promises of telemedicine, distance learning,
and other forms of consumer empowerment."

A source familiar with the letter said that it currently
has 74 signatures, all Democrats, and will be sent sometime today. 

A second
letter is being readied by Republican leaders
on the House Commerce
Committee and Communications Subcommittee, says Free Press, which has created
an online tool (at
that highlights some of both letters' points against the group's own views in
support of reclassifcation.

The Republican letter uses even stronger language
than the Democrats', essentially leading off by telling the chairman to stop
and leave the issue to Congress (it is unclear how many Republicans have signed

Both letters suggest the chairman should wait for
marching orders from Congress before weighing in, something the Bells and cable
ISP's have been arguing for.

The commission is expected soon to issue a notice of
inquiry and notice of proposed forbearance on Title II reclassification. It has
already outlined the proposal but will get input in the NOI and officially
signal in the forbearance notice the vast majority of Title II regs that it
will not apply to broaband.

A May 24 editorial in The Washington Postwas along the same
lines of the two letters, saying it is "nonsense" to think ISPs will
leap into a regulatory void to "engage in mischief," arguing the
Title II move is "unacceptable," and suggesting congressional action
in concert with industry, again echoing arguments made by the major phone and
cable companies.

“Most people consider this a partisan issue – Democrats support net neutrality regulations, Republicans oppose it,” said Green in announcing the letter late Monday. “This letter clearly shows it is not a partisan issue.  A large number of Democrats have reservations about such a significant regulatory shift and the impacts it will have on jobs and investment.”

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.