Walden: FCC Title II Move Would Disrupt Relationship With Congress

If the FCC were to try to classify Internet access service
under title II common carrier regs, it would be a "major disruption in the
relationship between Congress and the FCC," House Communications
Subcommittee Greg Walden (R-Ore.) warned Wednesday. "I hope they would not
proceed down that path."

Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Wednesday,
Walden was responding to a question about what the FCC would do if a federal
court overturned the FCC's current open Internet rules. While the FCC did not
pursue Title II classification in that compromise order, the docket remains
open and Walden, along with a number of other Republicans and industry execs, believe
that is so it remains an option if the court rules in favor of Verizon's
challenge to the rules.

He said for the FCC to classify the Internet as a common
carrier would open the door for states to do the same thing.

On Tuesday, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of
the subcommittee, said that if the court were to overturn the rules, shewould be ready with a bill "clarifying" that the FCC had
authority to enforce an open Internet.

Walden said Wednesday no bill to give the FCC power to regulate
the Internet would come out "on his watch." He said that was part of
the problem the country was having at the December ITU telecom treaty
conference in Dubai with international efforts to regulate the Internet. He
talked about others pointing to the FCC's net neutrality rules as an example of
the U.S. getting involved "at some level" of managing and regulating
the Internet.

On that subject, Walden said that the subcommittee would
hold a joint hearing Feb. 5 with the Terrorist and Trade Subcommittee of the
Foreign Affairs on Internet regulation in the wake of that conference -- the
U.S. declined to sign on to the treaty due to Internet-related language.

That will be the subcommittee's first hearing of the new
Congress, he said, likely followed by ones on the new FirstNet interoperable
broadband emergency network being funded by broadcaster incentive auction
proceeds. He said an auction oversight hearing, likely dealing at least in part
with guard bands, would follow sometime during the reply comment period on the
FCC's framework for those auctions. Comments are due Friday, Jan. 25, with
replies due mid-March.

Walden said the subcommittee would continue to look at tech
issues, broadband subsidies, and video distribution, though he deferred on a
question about retrans at the end of the news conference as he hastened to cast
a floor vote.

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.