Powell: Resist Covering Net with 'Dirty Quilt' of Title II

National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Michael Powell has a message for Capitol Hill, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, himself a former NCTA president, and others: Congress got it right in the 1996 Telecommunications Act when it concluded that "regulations can be a barrier to competition and deployment of new technologies," like the Internet.

That lesson should inform the FCC's current consideration of new net neutrality rules, Powell said in a op ed in The Hill newspaper.

Powell said regulation discourages competitive entry; entrenches incumbents; discourages investment, except in entrenched incumbents; and "kills" innovation.

He said that in a recent speech, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler succinctly summed up the benefits of competition over regulation when he said: “There is no doubt that regulation, even where necessary, imposes costs. Especially in a fast-moving sector, it is important that companies be free to develop better networks and attract the investment necessary to do so.”

POwell called it an important speech, and suggested the lessons of history teach a light regulatory touch.

Powell pointed out the Wheeler is a historian, and said that as the FCC weighs in again on net neutrality, history, and experience clearly show that competition if "the commission buckles to those who are baying to blanket the Internet industry with the dirty quilt of common carrier regulation."

The FCC is currently considering how to reinstate no-blocking and anti-unreasonably discrimination network neutrality rules thrown out by a federal court. He has been under pressure by net neutrality activist groups and others to reclassify ISP's under Title II common carrier regs. His initial proposal was not to do so, but he has since maintained Title II is still an option.

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.