NCTA, ITIF: Waxman Hybrid Headed in Wrong Direction

Title II opponents were not flocking to the proposal by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) that the FCC use both a stripped-down Title II AND Sec. 706 authority to underpin new network neutrality rules.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association framed its opposition to the hybrid proposal in senatorial-like courtesy, but its message was clear: Even a little Title II is too much.

"We appreciate Ranking Member Waxman’s thoughtful proposal in that it implicitly recognizes the onerous dangers of applying backward looking regulation to the Internet," said NCTA in a statement. "Nonetheless, the reclassification of broadband as a Title II service is unnecessary to provide consumers with reasonable network neutrality protections and will result in years of uncertainty and legal tussles. History has shown that forbearance is far from certain or quick and Title II advocates have already indicated their opposition to the type of forbearance that this approach suggests. At a time when the Internet economy is growing and thriving, regulatory uncertainty would only chill investment, innovation and the tremendous progress we’ve become accustomed to.”

That was seconded by Doug Brake, a telecom policy analyst with the Information Technology and Information Foundation (ITIF), who said the "hybrid" was actually a regulatory flexibility guzzler.

“While Congressman Waxman has clearly put some thought into this letter, we would argue that were the FCC to follow its advice, it would be taking a step backward, not forward regarding the debate over net neutrality," he said.

"First, the framing of the letter as a ‘hybrid’ compromise between 706 and Title II is inappropriate. His proposal would gut section 706 of all its advantages, effectively removing the FCC’s ability to carefully decide what forms of discrimination are appropriate over time. The approach is more a combination of the worst of Title II with expanded FCC section 706 power than anything resembling a compromise. Congressman Waxman fears the main advantage of 706 – its flexibility.

"The FCC is in this pickle to begin with because the outdated silos of the Communications Act do not suit the converging world of broadband. Congress should be focusing on rewriting a new Communications Act to meet this new reality rather than advising the FCC to shoe-horn new regulations into old 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.