Title II Rollback React Rolls On

Not surprisingly, the FCC's vote Thursday (May 18) to start rolling back Title II regulation of ISPs and reconsider whether any of the 2015 Open Internet Order rules are necessary in the public interest drew wave after wave of comments.

Here is yet another tranche of fans and foes of the proposal, which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said is the beginning of a process of gathering input on the best way to proceed.

“The FCC is moving the conversation beyond the merits of net neutrality to how best to safeguard this universally embraced value with a modern, constructive policy framework," said USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter. "This rulemaking wisely focuses this debate and puts a pro-consumer, pro-innovation and pro-investment policy trifecta within our reach. The internet is a central, driving force for our modern economy, and there is a smarter path forward to unlocking the full, abundant promise of broadband for our nation.”

"Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to begin the process of revisiting whether internet access services should be classified as 'information services' or 'telecommunications services' as defined by the Telecom Act," said Joan Marsh, SVP of Federal Regulatory. "We look forward to engaging in the complex discussions teed up in this proceeding, as the questions raised here are so important to consumers and the economy. But, in the end, significant policy judgments are the province of Congress. Administrative agencies can act only on the authority they are granted to implement Congressional mandates. In 2015, a 3-2 majority of the FCC departed from decades of precedent to reclassify internet access.

Now, a split FCC has begun the process of reversing that decision. Perhaps the only path to a clear and durable regulatory framework for internet access is through Congress."

“CenturyLink strongly supports a return to a light-touch regulatory framework that classifies the internet as an information service as opposed to a public utility," the country said in a statement. "Removing excessive and over-reaching Title II public utility-style regulation will lead to more innovation and investment and help ensure the internet continues to evolve and expand to meet customers’ ever-growing online demands.  

"CenturyLink is committed to an open internet that allows our customers to access all the lawful content of their choice from any location or device and will continue to be transparent about the handling of internet traffic, customers’ privacy and the overall internet experience.”

"All the dysfunctional tendencies of government regulation appeared in the 30 minute filibuster by Commissioner [Mignon] Clyburn on the Restore Internet Freedom agenda item at the FCC Open Meeting today," said VOiP pioneer TechInnovator Daniel

Berninger.  "None of Commissioner Clyburn's assertions trace to the actual reality of the Internet either as a non-regulated platform before the Open Internet Order or as regulated after.  The 80 year regulatory track record of the FCC reflects expanding advantage for monopoly, not the flowery promises Commissioner Clyburn imagines.  The present communication abundance traces entirely to the pre-2015 non-regulatory era.  Advocates for Internet regulation literally seek bureaucrat protection for the accomplishments of non-regulation. If advocates fail to join Chairman Pai's offer to resolve hostilities amicably via agency process, a final confrontation looms before the Supreme Court of the United States."

“The wireless industry applauds the FCC’s move today to lay the ground for a broadband regulatory framework that will promote billions of dollars of investment, millions of jobs and future innovation," said CTIA President Meredith Attwell Baker. "We are confident the FCC and Congress are on track for common sense net neutrality rules that will protect consumers, and ensure the U.S. remains the global leader in wireless.”

Mobile Future chief public policy advisor and former senior Republican FCC commissioner Robert McDowell was pleased that the FCC was moving to break what he said were the regulatory "chains" of the past.

“The FCC is appropriately focused on promoting and protecting the open internet while restoring internet freedom to drive innovation, job creation, and competition and spur economic growth in the years to come. Unlike the Chairman's forward-looking initiatives to remove barriers to local infrastructure and lift barriers to flexible spectrum use, regulating the

fast- moving mobile broadband industry under Title II chains it to the past. Innovative, pro-consumer programs, such as free data wireless plans, were on the verge of being prohibited under Title II.  We are encouraged by the FCC’s forward-looking move today toward creating a policy framework that will support robust investment and innovation to brighten America’s mobile future.”

But there were many brickbats as well as plaudits for the vote.

“With today’s vote, the FCC moved ahead with a regulatory handout to the telecom industry in the form of proposed full-scale repeal of net neutrality," said Sarah Morris, director of the Open Internet Policy at New America’s Open Technology Institute. "In advancing this item, Chairman Pai has chosen to ignore the millions of Americans who asked the FCC to create the Open Internet Order two years ago. The Order is clearly working for the American people, small businesses, and the internet economy. Despite its name, Chairman Pai’s proposal is an unnecessary and misguided assault on internet freedom, and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”

The Color of Change did not like the change the FCC was proposing.

“Today’s move by the FCC and Chairman Ajit Pai to gut net neutrality rules will devastate Black communities," said Rashad Robinson, executive director for Color Of Change. "Net neutrality is essential to protecting our free and open Internet, which has been crucial to today’s fights for civil rights and equality. Our ability to have our voices heard in

this democracy depends on an open Internet because it allows voices and ideas to spread based on substance, rather than financial backing. Net neutrality helps to ensure that the Internet is a place for innovation and opportunity for all, rather than just the wealthy few."

“The FCC’s love affair with a few large ISP’s is going to be a heartbreaker for consumers, small businesses and streaming services," said Chip Pickering, CEO of INCOMPAS, which represents completive networks and edge providers. "Today’s vote continues pushing the internet down a dangerous path, one that threatens both freedom of expression and free markets.  

“Net neutrality is critical to ensuring open and nondiscriminatory access to information for all, and today’s actions by the FCC endanger that," said ALA President Julie Todaro. "America’s libraries collect, create, curate, and disseminate essential information to the public over the internet, and enable our users to build and distribute their own digital content and applications. Abandoning current protections endangers our mission and ability to serve our communities. The American Library Association has been on the front lines of this battle for more than a decade, and we will continue the fight for an open internet for all."

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.