AT&T's Stephenson appeals directly to FCC's Wheeler to not reclassify broadband under Title II

Randall Stephenson, AT&T's (NYSE: T) CEO, met with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler earlier this week asking him to not reclassify wireline broadband services under Title II of the Communications Act.

During his conversation with Wheeler, Stephenson said, according to a federal filing, that such a move "is not only contrary to Commission precedent but would negatively impact broadband infrastructure investment in a manner that would be counterproductive to the Commission's and Administration's goal of making high speed broadband universally available in the United States."

Stephenson added that the FCC already has the authority to protect and promote the open Internet under section 706 of the Communications Act by prohibiting paid prioritization which harms consumers or competition.

His plea to the FCC also has implications for wireless networks.

The FCC is currently working on renewed net neutrality rules for wireless and wireline operators after a court ruled invalid parts of the agency's original 2010 rules.

Wireless networks were largely exempted from the FCC's net neutrality rules in 2010. Wireless carriers have argued that they need more leeway to manage their networks than wireline network operators because of the physics of their wireless networks and because of their limited spectrum resources. However, FCC officials, including Wheeler, have recently questioned whether wireless carriers should be given more leeway in any future net neutrality guidelines, largely in light of the massive growth of wireless use and the improvements carriers have made to wireless networks.

Wheeler's proposed "hybrid" plan for net neutrality has been greeted by opposition from industry groups and supporters of strong rules.

Over 70 organizations, including those that support net neutrality, sent a letter to the FCC protesting Wheeler's latest proposal.

"So-called sender side proposals are highly questionable and could fundamentally threaten the open Internet," wrote the organizations in the joint letter. "These proposals would split the Internet in two, creating divisions in Internet access and enshrining the notion that people or companies sending information have protections against discrimination, while users have none against their own ISP."    

For more:
- see this FCC filing
- The Hill has this article
- see this letter (.pdf)

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