Broadband providers, NCTA support Republicans' net-neutrality proposal

Incumbent service providers and industry trade groups back a proposal by a group of Republicans to thwart a potential move by the FCC to reclassify broadband Internet service providers as common carriers under Title II in the 1996 Telecom Act.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Michael Powell, the president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, said during a hearing that the new legislation could "finally put an end to the controversy over the FCC's attempts to establish a regulatory framework that protects and preserves an open Internet."

During two hearings held on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, lawmakers debated whether the FCC should be able to implement Title II to ensure net neutrality.

The FCC is expected to vote on using the Title II approach. While they have yet to make a conclusive statement on their plans, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told attendees at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January that that he is leaning toward proposing net neutrality rules where broadband providers will be reclassified as utilities under Title II of the Communications Act.

In November, President Barack Obama made a plea for the FCC to implement Title II on broadband providers, a move that's been largely criticized by traditional telcos like Verizon and AT&T, who say such regulation would saddle them with a spate of unnecessary regulations and inhibit new network investments.

Under the Republican plan, they will ensure the openness of the Internet while not permitting the agency to reclassify broadband as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act.

The draft legislation from Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) says that Internet service providers (ISPs) "may not block lawful content, applications, or services, subject to reasonable network management." The bills would also block ISPs from throttling traffic "by selectively slowing, speeding, degrading, or enhancing Internet traffic based on source, destination, or content." 

"I do not expect our draft to be a final product, but I also believe that it is not a partisan starting point to the conversation. We have put forth a good-faith proposal to find common ground between the parties," Thune said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

However, Democrat lawmakers argue that the FCC needs the authority to ensure that service providers can't create fast and slow lanes for specific types of content traveling over their last mile networks.

Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson said that while he is open to trying to find a compromise on the legislation, the proposed bill could hamper the FCC's authority to protect consumers.

"I remain concerned about any proposal that would strip away the FCC's tools to enforce essential consumer protections for broadband service," Nelson said. "It is more important to get this issue right than to get it done right now. The stakes are too high."

For more:
- WSJ has this article

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