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Title II: Industry Comes Out Swinging

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's proposal of what he said was a middle-ground solution to clarifying the FCC's broadband regulatory powers has generated a powerfully negative response from cable and phone networks.

"We firmly believe that the case for new regulation of the Internet has not been made," said National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Kyle McSlarrow. "Any Title II approach is still fraught with legal uncertainty and practical consequences which pose real risks to our ability to provide the high-quality and innovative broadband services that our customers expect, thus undermining the very investment and innovation goals we share with Chairman Genachowski and upon which the National Broadband Plan depends. 

He said cable operators were willing to work within the process, but toward a different result, which he called "a solution that reflects the longstanding and bipartisan view that all components of the Internet should be subject at most to limited regulation under Title I."

AT&T senior EVP Jim Cicconi called the proposal without legal basis and a potential drag on investment and jobs.

Verizon Executive VP Tom Tauke, a former Congressman, said congressional intent back when the 1996 Communications Act rewrite was crafted was clear. "In enacting the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Congress intentionally excluded Internet services, like broadband Internet access, from the scope of Title II's regulatory burdens. Those regulations were designed for different services delivered by different networks in different times.

"We believe that the chairman's stated approach is legally unsupported.  The regulatory and judicial proceedings that will ensue can only bring confusion and delay to the important work of continuing to build the nation's broadband future," said Tauke.

McSlarrow and Cicconi gave Genachowski props for trying to find a middle ground, but suggested it was much too far toward the Internet regulation side of the info highway. "But the fact remains that this approach would subject Internet facilities to some of the most onerous regulatory provisions on the books," said Cicconi.

Some Hill Republicans added their voices of disapproval. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committe, said she was "profoundly" disappointed. "This decision is not a middle ground, this is about imposing restrictions on how private companies manage and maintain their investments," she said in a statement.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), former chair of the House Communications Subcommittee, said the FCC had defied the federal courts. Upton earlier in the week had written the chairman asking him retain the Title I classification for Internet service.  "The FCC's blatant disregard of the Court's decision is ill-advised," he said. ""It is perplexing that the FCC, despite having the luxury of the Circuit Court's wisdom and guidance on broadband, has chosen to abruptly embark down the road less traveled of red tape and regulation under Title II."