Cellcom, Bluegrass Cellular and three other regional wireless providers are warning the FCC of the potential havoc Title II reclassification could wreak in the smaller markets they serve.
“Applying an outdated and backward-looking Title II common-carriage regime to our services would also stifle innovation and investment and would do a disservice to rural America,” the group wrote in a letter sent Thursday to the Commission.
The group said in order to differentiate from larger carriers, smaller carriers are “strongly incented” to innovate in pro-consumer offerings and look for other ways to deliver services. The group said it must hang on to the flexibility the FCC built into the 2010 Open Internet rules and that any new rules have to take a mobile-specific approach.
“Given our unique challenges, applying sweeping rules, even subject to a network management exception, would not afford us the flexibility to innovate, experiment, and deliver differentiated services to our communities,” the group wrote.
Although the group said it has to retain the ability to “aggressively manage traffic” on its networks, it still supports Internet openness. But it said the cost of providing service in its coverage areas is higher and that many rural carriers have to rely on smaller spectrum holdings, increasing the need for network flexibility.
The response from rural and regional carriers is similar to what larger carriers and wireless industry groups have said after President Obama earlier this week urged the FCC to reclassify ISPs as common carriers.
CTIA President and CEO Meredith Attwell Baker slammed the idea.
“”Imposing antiquated common carrier regulation, or Title II, on the vibrant mobile wireless ecosystem would be a gross overreaction that would ignore the bipartisan views of members of Congress and the FCC, would impose inappropriate regulation on a dynamic industry and would threaten mobile provider’s ability to invest and innovate, all to the detriment of consumers,” Attwell Baker wrote.
Groups like Public Interest applauded the President’s call to action, saying Title II reclassification could be one of the best tools for preventing undue throttling and other prohibitive practices from wireless network operators.