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House Republicans Ask Genachowski Not to Reclassify Broadband as Title II Service

The Title II hits just keep on coming.

One hundred and seventy-one House Republicans who have now asked FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski not to reclassify broadband transmissions as a Title II service subject to common carrier regulations.

In a letter Friday (May 28) in the wake of the FCC's annouced notice of inquiry on reclassification, the legislators, led by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, asked him not to proceed with his "third way" proposal to apply a handful of common carrier regulations to broadband transmission, leaving the content side under the information services classification subject to a lighter regulatory touch.

They point to the FCC's conclusion "on a number of occasions" that broadband is not a telecommunications service subject to Title II, and that such a "significant interprative change" should be left to Congress," a point also being made by some Democrats, including the former ranking member and chairman of the committee, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.).

Echoing long-standing industry criticisms of network neutrality regulations, the legislators say reclassification could lead to "reduced broadband investment, less economic stimulation, and fewer jobs."

The FCC plans to launch its proposed "third way" reclassification at its June 17 meeting. The move is a response to a D.C. federal appeals court, which ruled that the commission had overstepped its bounds in finding that Comcast had violated the commission's Internet openness guidelines by blocking/degrading BitTorrent peer-to-peer file sharing.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is concerned that that leaves a regulatory void that puts some of the national broadband plan at risk, as well as the FCC's ability to regulate reasonable network management and expand and codify network openness guidelines.

This week has brought a number of letters from concerned legislators, including an earlier letter from over 30 Republicans, one from 73 Democrats, and the separate Dingell letter, all raising red flags about reclassification.

"We welcome this bi-partisan Congressional effort from 285 Democratic and Republican Members of Congress cautioning against the FCC's proposal to subject broadband services to onerous Title II regulations," said AT&T in a statement. "We look forward to working with the Congress to provide the FCC with more narrow and targeted authority to protect the open Internet in a way that will not pose risk to jobs and needed investment."

"Today's House letter, combined with that signed by 74 Democrats a couple of days ago, is nothing more than a demonstration of the unparalleled political and lobbying muscle of the telecommunications industry," said Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn. "Members of Congress are being pressured to sign letters based on industry threats and bullying not borne out by any facts," she said in a statement.

Among those, she argues, is that "the telecommunications industry has let our country fall in international Internet rankings, has taken away any meaningful competition for consumers and has provided service more expensive and much slower than in other developed countries."