House Republicans to FCC: Take Title II Off Table

Leaders of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, which oversees the FCC, have told FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler that even the threat of Title II classification of Internet access could wreck the net.

Wheeler has said that Title II is on the table and a viable option, though he thinks it can be done under existing Sec. 706 authority.

In a letter to Wheeler, the leadership of both the committee and Communications Subcommittee told the FCC to reject Title II.

They called it an "unwarranted and overreaching government intrusion into the broadband marketplace [that] will harm consumers, halt job creation, curtail investment, stifle innovation, and set America down a dangerous path of micromanaging the Internet. The Commission must reject this approach."

Signing the letter were Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) chair and ranking member of the full committee, respectively, and Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Bob Latta (R-Ohio), chair and ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee.

Those Republicans are no fans of restoring the open Internet rules in any form, but they are focused on preventing the so-called nuclear option - at least in the view of ISPs - of Title II classification.

"Sixteen years ago, in a report to Congress, then-Chairman Bill Kennard and the FCC set a course for this country that supports consumer choice and champions the freedom of the Internet. The regulatory approach to date has done just that – by rejecting legacy regulation and supporting the job-creating and investment potential of the private sector," they said. "The Commission needs to send a strong signal that it has no intention of harming today’s thriving market and consumers by imposing expansive new Title II regulation on broadband service and micromanaging the Internet under rules designed for the legacy telephone network. We ask you to end this uncertainty by stating clearly your intention to drop any consideration of the Title II approach, and closing your Title II docket."

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski declined to foreclose the Title II option even as he tried to justify the first open Internet order. Wheeler has said he will do the same thing as he tried once again to use existing authority, this time using a road map provided by the federal court that threw out the old rules and will have to sign off on the news ones.

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.