Title II Rollback Fans Applaud FCC Vote

Fans for returning internet service providers (ISPs) to a non-common carrier regulatory framework were celebrating as the FCC's Republican majority voted Thursday to launch a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to reclassify them as information service providers not subject to Title II regs.

“I welcome the adoption of this NPRM as further progress toward restoring the FTC’s ability to protect broadband subscribers from unfair and deceptive practices," said acting Federal Trade Commission chairman Maureen Ohlhausen, "including violations of their privacy. Those consumer protections were an unfortunate casualty of the FCC’s 2015 decision to subject broadband to utility-style regulation. This new proceeding offers an opportunity to undo that decision and thereby return broadband consumers to the expert protection of the FTC.”

"The FCC today voted to begin a formal and transparent rulemaking process to eliminate Title II regulations and seek the best path forward to maintaining sensible Open Internet protections," blogged David Cohen, senior executive VP at Comcast. "Notwithstanding the multiple mischaracterizations of the FCC intentions, this is not a proceeding designed to eliminate enforceable Open Internet protections. The purpose is to find a path to protect the openness of the Internet without reliance on the dangerous and inappropriate Title II as the source of authority for such rules." 

“Today’s action appropriately begins the agency’s efforts to restore a modern regulatory framework that will promote internet freedom and ensure that the internet continues to grow, thrive and remain accessible to every American," said Michael Powell, president of NCTA: The Internet & Television Association. "We firmly believe that forcing outdated public utility regulation on dynamic internet networks is both misguided and harmful for future expansion, innovation and availability of this important technology.

Related: Hill Divided Over FCC's Title II Vote

“Despite the hyperbolic claims, consumers realize that public utility regulation is not net neutrality. The cable industry has supported and delivered an open internet for decades. That open experience – which allows consumers to go anywhere and run any application on the internet – will not change.  We look forward to participating in this proceeding and to forging a reasoned approach that will promote continued investment and innovation, and protect the open internet without the heavy yoke of public utility regulation.”

"We applaud Chairman Pai and Commissioner O’Rielly for remaining focused on creating a light touch regulatory environment that is pro-consumer, pro-investment, and pro-innovation, especially with the present partisan political rhetoric and debate," said Cohen. "To be clear, and as I have previously stated, Comcast supports strong, legally enforceable net neutrality protections that ensure a free and Open Internet for all of our customers. We do not and will not block, slow down, or discriminate against lawful content."

"ACA applauds the FCC for beginning a proceeding to scrap utility-style Title II regulation of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and return to the light-touch approach that had proven so successful for so many years prior to the previous FCC's 2015 order," said American Cable Association president Matt Polka. "The previous FCC's action to impose a century-old regulatory framework designed for telephone monopolies was made despite the complete lack of evidence that smaller ISPs had market power and were using it to harm their customers or edge providers. Yet, these ISPs now bear the full brunt of this wrong-headed decision, leaving them vulnerable to a host of new obligations and second-guessing by the FCC on the reasonableness of all of their rates, terms, conditions and practices… In the end, restoring light-touch regulation, as the FCC proposes, will give smaller ISPs greater incentives and capabilities to invest and innovate, all to the benefit of their communities."

Related: FCC's Net Neutrality Vote Gets Blowback From Title II Fans

“Verizon supports net neutrality," said Verizon executive VP and general counsel Craig Silliman. "Our customers demand it and our business depends on it. Our customers should be able to access the internet wherever, whenever and however they choose. As a company that plays a role in virtually all parts of the web, we continue to strongly support efforts to keep the internet open and widely available. And we support common sense regulation to maintain and protect the open internet."

"With today’s vote, Chairman Pai takes the next step in moving broadband out from under the heavy-handed, utility-style regulation of Title II," said the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF). "This move will return telecommunications policy to the light-touch oversight that has seen the Internet flourish over the past several decades. Now policymakers must come together to end the dramatic shifts in regulatory authority of recent years and solidify a dynamic and innovative open Internet on a permanent and predictable basis."

That will require "bipartisan compromise legislation," ITIF says.

Berin Szóka, president of TechFreedom, said Congress definitely needed to set the record straight.

“The FCC will no doubt receive a flurry of policy-related comments on today’s proposal, but the real audience for those should be Congress,” he said. “The relatively minor differences among Democrats and Republicans on how to police net neutrality concerns can and should be worked out in legislation. Absent legislation, or a clear Supreme Court decision in still-pending litigation, the question of the FCC’s legal authority will simply keep ping-ponging back and forth depending on which party controls the FCC. Consumers and companies alike deserve a policy that protects an open Internet once and for all.”

"At some point, Americans will wake up to the reality that the ISPs have as much at stake, if not more, in maintaining a free and open Internet as consumers," said Adonis Hoffman, chairman of Business in the Public Interest and former chief of staff to FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn. "Politics aside, I believe this action will set our regulatory policy on a firm footing that provides stability, predictability and integrity for commercial enterprises and consumers alike. I also hope it instills an abiding commitment of corporate responsibility to address the issues raised by net neutrality advocates. To whom much is given, much is required." 

"The FCC's new proceeding to consider curtailing the public utility-like regulations put in place in 2015 by the Obama Administration's FCC is of utmost importance to the future development of the Internet's aid," Free State Foundation president Randolph May, himself a former top FCC official. "There is already mounting evidence that broadband investment by Internet service providers has slowed under the current regime characterized by heavy-handed government intervention. A return to the considerably less interventionist oversight regime that prevailed until 2015 would help ensure that the Internet continues to evolve in a way that is responsive to consumer demands for innovative new services delivered over robust high-speed broadband networks."

"I am pleased to see the Federal Communications Commission return to an evidenced-based approach to rulemaking with today’s NPRM," said Scott Wallsten, president of the Technology Policy Institute. "Time and again, common carrier regulation has been shown to be harmful to innovation, competition, and economic growth.

"Unfortunately, this rulemaking probably won’t be the end of the net neutrality debate. Only Congress can put the issue to rest and prevent us from re-living this issue with every change in Administration."

(Photo via Rock1997Image taken on Jan. 18, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 3x4 aspect ratio.)

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.