NCTA: Title II a 'Backward-Looking,' 'Troubling' Route

The heads of the associations most affected by the Federal Communications Commission's tough new Open Internet rules -- which apply to Internet service providers, fixed and mobile, but do not apply to edge providers -- said the commission's course is a potentially destructive one.

“Chairman [Tom] Wheeler’s proposal to impose the heavy burden of Title II public utility regulation on the Internet goes far beyond the worthy goal of establishing important net neutrality protections," said Michael Powell, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, whose members include the largest ISPs. "It will result in a backward-looking new regulatory regime, ill-suited for the dynamic Internet, with far reaching and troubling consequences. We believe that such a significant expansion of the FCC’s authority is unnecessary and will only deliver further uncertainty instead of legally enforceable rules that everyone supports. Despite the repeated assurances from the President and Chairman Wheeler, we remain concerned that this proposal will confer sweeping discretion to regulate rates and set the economic terms and conditions of business relationships."

When he was chairman of the FCC, Powell supported classification of ISPs as information service providers, not telecom providers as the Title II reclassification makes them.

“The cable industry has repeatedly voiced our support for sensible net neutrality rules which accomplish the important protections that President Obama and others have supported – no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization and transparency of business practices –  and can be enacted without the significant regulatory baggage that comes with public utility regulation," Powell said. "We will need to look carefully at the final order to fully understand the impact on broadband networks and American consumers.”

American Cable Association president Matt Polka said: "Title II is the wrong approach for ensuring an Open Internet, particularly for smaller ISPs and their customers. Rather than doing the hard work required to examine individual markets and individual competitors, the FCC has taken the easy way out by treating all ISPs the same. Yet, as ACA has demonstrated to the FCC, smaller ISPs, including smaller cable operators, rural telcos, and municipal providers, do not have an incentive or ability to harm the openness of the Internet, and new Title II regulations will be disproportionately onerous for them.  ACA and its members urge the FCC to address this error and grant relief for smaller ISPs to avoid harming them and their customers. Reduced investment in broadband and higher retail rates that would result from onerous regulation will benefit no one.”

The draft still needs to be voted, and ACA has signaled it is still hopeful its concerns can be addressed before the final vote. The chairman plans to circulate the draft Feb. 5 to the other commissioners for their perusal and edits. ACA represents smaller and midsized telcos.

“We are concerned that the FCC’s proposed approach could jeopardize our world leading mobile broadband market and result in significant uncertainty for years to come because the FCC lacks congressional authority to impose Title II public utility regulation on mobile broadband services," said Meredith Attewll Baker, president of CTIA, which has threatened to sue the FCC over Title II. "The mobile innovation and investment – $120 billion since 2010 alone – that American consumers rely on will be placed at risk by the FCC applying intrusive regulatory restrictions on mobile broadband for the first time. We continue to believe Congress’s bipartisan efforts to provide explicit authority to the FCC is the best path forward to preserve an open Internet and provide certainty for all stakeholders.”

Republican members of the House and Senate have drafted legislation that would block Title II while preventing blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.


Wheeler Makes It Official: It's Title II for ISPs

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.