With the FCC’s 2015 decision on Net Neutrality upheld by an appeals court today, organizations representing many of the nation’s broadband providers were quick to voice their displeasure. Several suggested that they might pursue further legal action.
In imposing the Net Neutrality rules aimed at preventing broadband providers from favoring certain types of Internet traffic, the FCC reclassified broadband as a Title II communications service. That potentially left broadband open to heavier regulations — although the commission said it would forbear from certain types of Title II regulation. Numerous telcos and cablecos have said they support Net Neutrality guidelines but oppose reclassification of broadband.
Net Neutrality Upheld
In a statement, USTelecom President Walter McCormick said the appeals court decision “will replace a consumer-drive[n] Internet with a government-run Internet. ” That, he said would threaten investment and innovation in years to come.” He also noted that the association “will be evaluating all of our legal options.”
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which represents larger cable companies, said it was “disappointed” by the appeals court decision. The association also said “this is unlikely the last step in this decade-long debate over Internet regulation.” The NCTA urged Congressional leaders to “renew their efforts to craft meaningful legislation that can end ongoing uncertainty.” The legislation also should “promote network investment and protect consumers.”
Matthew M Polka, CEO of the American Cable Association which represents smaller cable companies, also said he was disappointed by today’s outcome. He argued that reclassification will cause the regulation of “complex, computer-like networks of ISPs as though they are ‘dumb’ pipes provided by monopoly telephone companies.” While noting that ACA was still looking over the decision, Polka said the ACA “expects to seek review of the decision.”
On the wireless side, Meredit Attwell Baker, president and CEO of wireless provider association CTIA said that “[f]or the U.S. to remain the global mobile leader, we need rules that help promote consumer access to 5G and the Internet of Things without subjecting the wireless industry to investment-chilling public utility regulation.” She also said the CTIA will pursue “judicial and congressional options to ensure a regulatory framework that provides certainty for consumers, investors and innovators.”
NTCA Sees Pluses and Minuses
One industry association was a bit less critical of today’s decision than the others, and that was NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, which represents rural telecom and broadband providers. In a statement, NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield said the association has argued all along that “a stable light-touch regulatory framework can prove useful in providing certainty – provided that any rules adopted are properly calibrated and applied.” In particular she praised the possibility of more certainty with regard to “universal service and consumer protection.”
She also noted that “NTCA encourages the [FCC] to use this decision as a springboard for a closer look at interconnection arrangements.” The court has noted that those agreements are a telecommunications service, she said.
But despite some apparent support for reclassification, Bloomfield said NTCA has some “serious concerns.” She said these relate to “the ways in which the FCC has sought to expand and apply certain Title II regulations to broadband.”
The upshot: Even with Net Neutrality upheld by the appeals court, the door is far from closed on this matter.