NCTA: FCC Must Reject Alarmist Calls for Title II

The sky is not falling, Internet-wise, and regulators should act accordingly when it comes to imposing any new network neutrality regs, regs cable ops aren't persuaded are even needed.

That was the gist of the message from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association in a blog posting Monday in advance of its comments on the FCC's latest effort to get open Internet rules by a D.C. federal appeals court last January.

"Contrary to what some alarmists may claim, these are not drastic times, and they certainly do not call for drastic measures like a wholesale change in our approach to broadband regulation," said NCTA, whose president Michael Powell ran the FCC during early efforts to establish openness rules of the road without putting up roadblocks to Internet investment and reasonable network management.

NCTA supported the 2010 Open Internet order, but mostly because it was a preferable alternative to Title II rather than any conviction that such regs were necessary, a point it reiterated—and pointed out it was reiterating—in Monday's blog post: "As we say in our comments (and as we’ve said before), we remain skeptical that new rules are necessary to achieve that result." That result being preserving important Internet freedoms. NCTA has long argued that it is in their cable operator/ISP members' best interests to provide their subs the best, fastest, and most open Internet experience possible.

But if there are to be rules, NCTA says, "the Commission must reject the calls of extreme voices that wrongly suggest that the only acceptable course for the Commission to take is to turn back the clock on progress by reclassifying broadband as a Title II common carrier service."

As recently as last Friday, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said Title II classification remains on the table and that the FCC will do what it has to to insure that the Internet remains an open platform for investment and innovation.

July 15 is the deadline for comments on his proposal to better justify the Open Internet's anti-blocking and non-unreasonable discrimination rules thrown out by the court earlier this year. He is proposing using existing authority under Sec. 706, which empowers the FCC to regulate broadband to insure it is being deployed to all Americans in a timely manner. The court advised the FCC that Sec. 706 gives the FCC that authority.

NCTA agrees: "As the D.C. Circuit’s Verizon decision makes clear, the FCC has sufficient authority under Section 706 of the Communications Act to promote broadband deployment and to protect an open Internet. If further action is necessary, it can be done in a manner that will avoid the tangible harms of Title II, that can be firm enough to prevent unreasonable discrimination, that can be flexible enough to consider new facts and circumstances as the Internet continues to grow and evolve, and that can be both platform and application agnostic." The FCC's 2010 Open Internet rules do not apply to edge providers like a Google or Yahoo!, who clearly wield power over access to content over the Internet through their search algorithms.

Wheeler has said he wanted new rules in place by the end of the year.

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.