Title II Is Wrong Call: Telco ISPs

Telco Internet service providers joined cable ISPs in slamming the Federal Communications Commission over its decision, on a 3-2 vote, to reclassify Internet access as a Title II telecommunications service.

Verizon called the decision "a net loss for innovation and consumers."

“Today’s decision by the FCC to encumber broadband Internet services with badly antiquated regulations is a radical step that presages a time of uncertainty for consumers, innovators and investors," said Verizon senior VP Michael Glover. "Over the past two decades, a bipartisan, light-touch policy approach unleashed unprecedented investment and enabled the broadband Internet age consumers now enjoy.

“The FCC today chose to change the way the commercial Internet has operated since its creation," Glover said. "Changing a platform that has been so successful should be done, if at all, only after careful policy analysis, full transparency, and by the legislature, which is constitutionally charged with determining policy. As a result, it is likely that history will judge today’s actions as misguided."

In a blog post, AT&T senior executive VP Jim Cicconi wrote: "Instead of a clear set of rules moving forward, with a broad set of agreement behind them, we once again face the uncertainty of litigation, and the very real potential of having to start over-- again -- in the future. "Partisan decisions taken on 3-2 votes can be undone on similarly partisan 3-2 votes only two years hence. And FCC decisions made without clear authorization by Congress -- and who can honestly argue Congress intended this? -- can be undone quickly by Congress or the courts. This may suit partisans who lust for issues of political division, but it isn't healthy for the Internet ecosystem, for the economy or for our political system."

And, followed to its logical conclusion, this will do long term damage to the FCC as well, Cicconi said.

"For our part, we will continue to seek a consensus solution, and hopefully bipartisan legislation, even if we are the last voice seeking agreement rather than division," he added. "And we will hope that other voices of reason will emerge, voices who recognize that animosity, exaggeration, demonization, and fear-mongering are not a basis on which to make wise national policies."

CITA: The Wireless Association president Meredith Attwell Baker called the decision "disappointing and unnecessary," as well as illegal -- the CTIA has said it would sue. She said consumers "have – and will always have – access to an open mobile Internet."

"By ignoring the fundamental differences in wireless networks and disregarding the intense competition throughout the mobile ecosystem, the FCC abandoned a long-standing policy framework responsible for fostering America’s world-leading wireless industry," she added. "The FCC's claim that the mobile voice experience supports the FCC's efforts distorts history and the law, turning a deregulatory statute in 1993 on its head. Title II needlessly puts at risk our nation’s 5G future and the promise of a more connected life.

“The agency’s action runs counter to an express Congressional directive prohibiting the agency from treating mobile broadband like a utility service, making today’s decision not only unwise, but unlawful," Attwell Baker continued. "The economic and legal uncertainty that will inevitably follow from the FCC’s unilateral action underscores the importance of, and urgent need for, bipartisan Congressional action that can end the net-neutrality debate and allow our country’s mobile ecosystem to focus on what it does best – innovating, investing and empowering Americans’ mobile, connected lives.”

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.