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Stakeholders Weigh In on President's Title II Stand

Reaction was swift Monday to the President's call for reclassifying Internet Access under Title II.

CTIA – The Wireless Association called it a "gross overreaction," Verizon called it a "gratuitous" and "radical" reversal, while Title II proponents were celebrating.

“Today, the Obama Administration expanded its leadership to promote an open internet by supporting the strongest tools to prevent blocking or throttling of Internet traffic, and by also supporting the strongest tools to deter fast lanes and prioritized traffic on the public's most essential communications platform of the 21st century," said Public Knowledge president Gene Kimmelman.

"White House support for reclassifying the Internet as a public utility is great news, and the kind of bold executive action that America needs," said the Progressive Change Campaign. "In the wake of the 2014 elections, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee is calling for a Democratic Party of 'big ideas,' and this is a great example of what that means -- aggressive, creative ways to level the playing field. Working people and small businesses depend on the Internet as a utility, and it's time for the FCC and Chairman Wheeler to act."

"The President wasn't kidding when he said he'd take a back seat to no one on net neutrality,” said former FCC chairman Michael Copps, currently a special adviser to Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Reform Initiative. “Thank you, Mr. President. And thanks to the millions of Americans who helped make this happen. As someone who has been pushing for Title II since 2002, when the FCC wrongly classified broadband, I am thrilled. Now the FCC must show the same kind of leadership and courage."

"Imposing antiquated common carrier regulation, or Title II, on the vibrant mobile wireless ecosystem would be a gross overreaction that would ignore the bipartisan views of members of Congress and the FCC, would impose inappropriate regulation on a dynamic industry and would threaten mobile provider’s ability to invest and innovate, all to the detriment of consumers," said CTIA president Meredith Attwell Baker. "CTIA strongly opposes such an approach.”

"The President who promised to take a back seat to no one on Net Neutrality has finally gotten in the driver's seat," said Free Press president Craig Aaron. "And he may have saved the Internet at the moment it was in the greatest jeopardy. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the other commissioners now must abandon convoluted proposals and make clear rules that will protect Internet users and stand up in court. As the president made very clear, the only sure way to do that is under Title II."

Verizon, which sued to block the 2010 Open Internet order, said Title II would be a big threat to the Open Internet.

“Reclassification under Title II, which for the first time would apply 1930s-era utility regulation to the Internet, would be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition and innovation," the company said in a statement. "That course will likely also face strong legal challenges and would likely not stand up in court.  Moreover, this approach would be gratuitous.  As all major broadband providers and their trade groups have conceded, the FCC already has sufficient authority under Section 706 to adopt rules that address any practices that threaten harm to consumers or competition, including authority to prohibit ‘paid prioritization.’ For effective, enforceable, legally sustainable net neutrality rules, the Commission should look to Section 706.”

React continued to flood in as the news spread.

Tumblr: "President Obama pledged from his first campaign to fight for a free and open internet, and today he delivered on that promise hugely," said Tumblr CEO David Karp. "The White House has drawn a clear line between strong net neutrality rules under Title II and some of the weaker, more risky, approaches the FCC is considering. Now it’s up to the FCC to listen to the President—as well as the millions who have taken a stand for net neutrality—and take action. Before the end of the year, please."

NetCompetition:  "For twenty years, the solid foundation of a free and open global Internet has been built upon bipartisan, Clinton Administration Internet, trade and foreign policy, that ensured that our global trading partners did not legally classify Internet traffic as a price and tariff regulated “telecommunications” utility service like under Title II," said NetCompetition Chairman Scott Cleland. "The longstanding, lightly regulated “information services” classification has allowed Internet traffic to flow freely as un-bordered, un-tariffed Internet traffic, rather than UN-regulated and tariffed “telecommunications” trade.

“The U.S. by far has the most to lose economically and geopolitically, if the world follows the President’s lead and imposes their own maximal-regulation of their national Internet infrastructure, because America is by far the largest exporter of Internet content, products and services.”

NetCompetition members include the major ISPs.

CCIA: “A groundswell of millions of comments supporting the Open Internet is evidence of the importance of having effective rules preventing paid prioritization and discriminatory treatment," said Ed Black, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which asked the FCC to reclassify under Title II. "Neither the FCC nor Internet Access Providers should any longer ignore the political urgency behind the support for Title II from the public, from the most innovative and competitive sectors of industry, and now clearly from the President.

"The challenge now is for the FCC to act promptly and to make sure opponents of the Open Internet don’t use complexity and confusion as tools to weaken this effort to issue new rules protecting the Internet."

CCIA members include Google, Facebook, Microsoft and T-Mobile.

Mobile Future: “It is deeply disappointing that the President is refuting decades of bipartisan, pro-consumer, pro-investment policies that have led to the dynamic communications marketplace Americans enjoy today," said Jonathan Spalter, chair of Mobile Future.

"Mobile Future’s recent nationwide survey clearly found wireless consumers are deeply skeptical of an expanded regulatory role for government. In fact, 90% believe today’s level or less regulation would help speed the arrival of new products, apps and service choices. To reduce the Internet to the status of an analog-era, government-controlled public utility, which is precisely what the President's plan will do - will put not only the Internet, but also consumers, and our innovation ecosystem at grave risk.  And it will send a clear message to governments around the world that it is now open season to apply their own more burdensome rules and restrictive controls over the global Internet.”

Information Technology and Innovation Foundation: "ITIF is disappointed by President Obama's statement, not because of the general net neutrality policy he lays out, but because we strongly disagree that Title II is the correct way to achieve that policy. Just about everyone is in agreement with President Obama in wanting to assure an Internet free from blocking, "throttling," or any type prioritization that undermines a level playing field. Fortunately, in the Verizon decision the court laid out a clear path under section 706 of the Communications Act to enact just such rules. Such a path is surely the best route to enforceable rules that do not limit investment in and on the network, while allowing flexibility in allowing new technologies to flourish.

Reclassification under Title II is not easy or straightforward. The forbearance process is complex and lengthy, subject to arguments and delay from all interested parties. Furthermore, classification of ISPs as common carriers based solely on a policy goal would face steep legal challenges."

Tech Freedom: "Title II means the very opposite of net neutrality. Even under Title II, the FCC can’t legally ban all paid prioritization — only regulate it to make sure that prices are just and reasonable," said Press Freedom President Berin Szoka. "Obama’s statement is simply a cynical political ploy, a way of playing to activists on the radical Left who have built mailing lists and a political movement on the most absolutist conception of net neutrality."

Telecommunications Industry Association: “We are deeply concerned over President Obama’s endorsement of reclassifying the Internet as a Title II utility-like telecom service," said TIA CEO Scott Belcher. "Such a move would set the industry back decades, and threaten the private sector investment that is critically needed to ensure that the network can meet surging demand.  We saw a significant negative impact on investment the last time restrictive Title II regulation was in place, and no one will benefit from returning to that failed policy.  As manufacturers and suppliers who build the Internet backbone and supply the devices and services that ride over it, our companies strongly urge regulators to refrain from reclassification that will guarantee harm to consumers, the economy, and the very technologies we’re trying to protect.”

Technology Policy Institute: "It is incomprehensible why President Obama wants to discard the light-handed regulatory regime that has been so successful in promoting U.S. leadership in the information economy, and instead encumber the internet with the antiquated, flawed public utility regulatory regime," said Institute President Thomas Lenard. "This is surely the way to kill innovation in one of the real bright spots in the U.S. economy.

"The FCC, as an independent agency, should base its decision on the best available data and analysis, none of which support Title II reclassification, rather than bending to political pressures."

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.