FCC’s Clyburn: Undoing Title II broadband classification harms our ability to enable universal broadband service

FCC headquarters
The ongoing debate over net neutrality has driven a call by a number of parties to have Congress step in and develop a new law.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, one of the remaining Democrats at the regulator, said that maintaining classification of broadband services under Title II will ensure competition and drive greater service availability. 

Speaking at the hearing before the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology at the U.S. House of Representatives, Clyburn said that stripping the Title II classification out of the current net neutrality rules.

FCC Commissioner Clyburn Image: FCC
Mignon Clyburn

“Taking away Title II for broadband undercuts our ability to ensure universal service for broadband by taking away our clearest source of authority to make sure all Americans are connected,” Clyburn said, according to a transcript.

RELATED: Allaying confusion, White House confirms opposition to Obama-era net neutrality rules

She cited her interaction with a consumer named Craig from California who fears that without net neutrality, his provider would be able to throttle his Netflix or Hulu online video subscriptions. As a result, he would have to either purchase these services from one of his cable providers or purchase a more expensive broadband internet package.

Taking it a step further, Clyburn maintained that Title II is central to ensuring that consumers and businesses will have a broad choice of providers to get wireline and wireless broadband services.

“Undoing our classification of broadband as a Title II service also harms the FCC’s ability to enable competition,” Clyburn said. “There is specific authority in sections 224 and 253 of the Communications Act that allows the FCC to enable competitive access to monopoly infrastructure, and to remove other barriers to competition. Without Title II, it will be far more difficult for the Commission to enact policies to enable competition.”

Besides ensuring competition, Clyburn also pointed to how Title II helps to ensure privacy. Under Section 222 of the FCC Communications Act is the regulator’s privacy statute.

“We adopted rules of the road for broadband privacy last October and they were stripped away earlier this year with the passage of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution of disapproval which means today, there are no comprehensive rules on the books protecting broadband consumer privacy for Americans,” Clyburn said.

Clyburn’s comments about net neutrality and Title II come amidst an ongoing debate not only within the FCC, but also from traditional large telcos and cable operators who said the current rules have hampered their ability to make new network investments.

While incumbent telcos and cable operators like AT&T and Comcast maintain they will abide by the basic tenets of net neutrality—no blocking, paid prioritization or throttling—these companies say Title II is the wrong method. Interestingly, those providers joined the recent “Day of Action” to protest the FCC’s plan to gut current net neutrality rules.

Bob Quinn, SVP of external and legislative affairs for AT&T, said in a blog post post that Title II classification “jeopardizes the prospects for continued innovation and robust growth we have witnessed since the internet’s creation.”

The ongoing debate over net neutrality has driven a call by a number of parties to have Congress step in and develop a new law.

Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, the Republican leader of the tech-focused House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to a Recode report, has asked the chief executives of top technology and telecom companies to testify before his panel at a newly announced September 7 net neutrality hearing.