You could say telecom organizations are piling on the FCC over the commission’s decision to reclassify broadband as a Title II telecommunications service. Associations representing wireless carriers and large and small cable companies today joined USTelecom in challenging the FCC’s decision. Associations filing protests with the FCC included CTIA – The Wireless Association, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and the American Cable Association.
Challenges to Title II Broadband
“Our goal is to restore national policy that the Internet was to evolve unfettered by state and federal regulation,” said NCTA President and CEO Michael Powell on a conference call with reporters today.
Broadband Internet service is more appropriately defined as a lightly regulated Title I information service, Powell said. He argued that consumers perceive Internet apps such as Instagram, Dropbox, Spotify and You Tube as information sources.
Some of Powell’s comments resembled those that came from USTelecom on a press briefing yesterday about its own filing. Like USTelecom Senior Vice President of Law and Policy Jonathan Banks, Powell argued that the FCC provided insufficient notice about the moves it was planning to make on Title II and the Net Neutrality rules adopted at the time broadband was reclassified.
Also like Banks, Powell argued that the FCC’s decision on broadband was “arbitrary and capricious.”
As for the Net Neutrality rules, Powell argued that NCTA would have supported the rules that FCC Chairman Wheeler proposed last year that stopped short of reclassifying broadband – and he noted that some parties within the FCC said those rules would have withstood a legal challenge.
Powell also noted however that the NCTA does oppose the FCC’s decision to oversee Internet interconnection agreements that was part of the Net Neutrality and Title II decision.
The NCTA will decide in upcoming weeks whether to seek a stay of the FCC’s decision, Powell said.
ACA and CTIA
The ACA, which represents smaller cable operators, also argued that Title I was a more appropriate classification for broadband services. That approach “created the proper balance of ensuring consumers have open access to the Internet while giving providers the proper incentives to bringing high-performance broadband services to nearly every corner of the country,” argued Matthew M. Polka, president and CEO of the ACA, in a press release.
Because of reclassification, small cablecos “will have to divert untold time, capital and resources from upgrading their networks and services to ensuring legal compliance with rules that address hypothetical concerns foreign to their experience and well beyond their ability or desire to implement.”
In a CTIA press release, CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker accused the FCC of opting “to resuscitate a command-and-control regulatory regime, including a process where innovators must first seek permission from the FCC before rolling out new services.”
In so doing, the commission “usurped the role of Congress,” Baker said.
NTCA Has a Different Take
One telecom service provider association that doesn’t appear bent on stopping Title II reclassification is NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association. Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of that organization, has written that Title II “can provide a useful framework and does not need to be an impediment to investment in and ongoing operation of broadband networks, if the rules are clear and properly applied and calibrated.”
For small telcos, the good news about broadband reclassification is that it could strengthen the FCC’s ability to broaden the contribution base for the Universal Service/ Connect America Fund, thereby making the program more sustainable. Currently carriers getting USF/CAF funding are required to deploy broadband service, even though the program is funded as a percentage of shrinking telecom industry voice revenues.