CTIA and the country’s top two operators issued statements stridently opposed to the FCC’s plan to advance its net neutrality proposals with a Notice of Inquiry (NOI).
The NOI, passed yesterday on a vote of 3-2, opens up Chairman Julius Genachowski’s proposed “Third Way” approach to net neutrality rules and is an important step toward issuing formal regulations.
In a post on AT&T’s public policy blog, the company’s legislative affairs chief, Jim Cicconi, said the agency had failed to articulate the legal basis behind Genachowski’s proposal, which would reclassify broadband Internet under Title II of the Communications Act while forbearing from many of the act’s extensive regulatory provisions.
The FCC sees the reclassification as a way to circumvent a U.S. Court of Appeals decision in the FCC vs. Comcast case which ruled the agency lacked authority to regulate information services under Title I of the Communications Act, where broadband Internet is currently classified.
“Today’s decision by the FCC is troubling and, in many respects, unsettling. It will create investment uncertainty at a time when certainty is most needed,” Cicconi said. “A better and more proper approach is for the FCC to defer the question of its legal authority to the U.S. Congress.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have asked the FCC to step back from net neutrality regulations on fears that the proposed rules could create uncertainties that may deter investors.
Verizon Public Affairs Officer Tom Tauke also said the FCC should hand the issue over to Congress and echoed AT&T’s concerns about the impact of the proposed regulations on the wireless industry.
“Reclassifying high-speed broadband Internet service as a telecom service is a terrible idea. The negative consequences for online users and the Internet ecosystem would be severe and have ramifications for decades,” he said. “Rather than attempting to make the new world of broadband fit into the regulatory scheme of the old telephone world, the FCC should acknowledge that this is an issue Congress should address.”
Sprint took a comparably neutral stance on the inquiry approval, saying the FCC “must take the steps necessary to promote a competitive broadband market.” The carrier also said it understood the importance of having a clear legal basis for any regulatory regime and that it “appreciates” the FCC’s “thoughtful approach” on the issue.
CTIA called the commission’s action “a dangerous solution in search of a non-existent problem” and said it had significant concerns about the NOI, specifically its potential effect on investment.
“If the FCC chooses to insert these rules in this extremely challenging economic climate, it would be an irresponsible move that would cause significant uncertainty – the exact opposite of the environment necessary to provide an incentive for future investment,” said CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent in a statement.
Largent also expressed concerns that the FCC’s light approach to broadband Internet regulations could be a thing of the past. “We hope that is not the case, and we hope that the goal of this proceeding is not to establish a legal basis for further micro-management of the exceptionally innovative and fast moving wireless broadband ecosystem,” he said.
While many in the wireless industry were opposed to yesterday’s decision, top Internet service providers, including Skype, eBay and Google, support the agency’s oversight of broadband Internet services.
“As we have said before, broadband infrastructure is too important to be left outside of any oversight,” said Google Washington Telecom and Media Counsel Richard Whitt in a statement.