FCC's McDowell Provides Hill With Title II History Lesson

Federal Communications Commissioner commissioner Robert McDowell provided the promised evidentiary support for his difference of opinion with House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) over broadband classification.

At a March 25 oversight hearing, McDowell took issue with the assertion that if the FCC changed the broadband regulatory classification from a Title I information to a Title II telecommunications service it would be a return to previous policy.

He testified that broadband Internet had never been classified as a Title II telecom service, and promised Waxman he would follow up with his reasoning.

In a letter dated May 5, McDowell provided a summary of the history of broadband classification that he said demonstrated that the FCC "consistently held that any provider of information services could do so pursuant to Title I."

The letter may have crossed another one in the ether from Waxman to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski telling him to consider Title II reclassification as a response to the D.C. federal appeals court decision throwing out the FCC's Comcast/BitTorrent ruling and calling its authority to regulate broadband network management into question.

The issue is heating up as the commission prepares its legal response to the BitTorrent decision. The chairman has pledged to find a solid legal foundation for network neutrality and the national broadband plan.

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.