NCSL: Hill Should Protect Net Neutrality Without Title II

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) wants Congress to step in and legislate net neutrality protections without what it suggests is the investment-chilling, innovation-strangling Title II reclassification.

A Standing Committee on Communications, Financial Services & Interstate Commerce resolution to that effect was approved by NCSL at a business meeting during its annual Legislative Summit last week, according to a source familiar with the document, and released Thursday.

It could provide ammunition for those pushing for legislation, which includes the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. The resolution supports preventing blocking, throttling and paid prioritization, but not using Title II, which is the tack NCTA and other ISPs have been taking in saying Congress should step in.

Both Republicans and Democrats have been talking about giving the FCC clearer direction ever since a divided commission decided to reclassify ISPs as Title II common carrier services, which critics of the decision, including ISPs and some FCC commissioners and legislators, argued would chill investment and innovation. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has said it will do neither

In the resolution, which was posted on its Web site, the NCSL committee asked Congress to "enact legislation that would protect consumers without undermining future growth, investment, and innovation" and that would "give the FCC clear authority to protect consumers, close the digital divide, and preserve an open Internet."

But the committee also said ISPs need to be free to explore business models and pricing plans and government should continue its "historic, hands-off regulatory approach."

Legislation was necessary, said the committee, because the FCC's Feb. 26 vote to reclassify broadband—the rules went into effect June 12—"contravenes a decades-long bipartisan Internet policy approach that fostered the massive capital investment in Internet-enabled networks and services and promoted the innovative atmosphere consumers enjoy today and instead places the vibrant, dynamic Internet sphere under its bureaucratic control whereby innovation opportunities could become strangled."

As for Title II: "[M]andated public utility regulation of the Internet would impede future capital investments in the U.S.’ broadband infrastructure," the committee resolved.

Copies of the resolution will go to the Hill, the FCC, and the President, who came out strongly in favor of the Title II approach.

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.