In its latest attempt to impose net neutrality rules, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on June 17 released a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on broadband reclassification. This risky strategy drags a dynamic industry--the broadband services sector--one step closer to being weighed down with regulations developed for traditional phone services.
The overhaul that the FCC is seeking means that the Internet would no longer be considered an information service, which has been a key factor in its proliferation over the past decade. Reclassification of broadband services under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act would impose potentially sweeping regulations with steep consequences.
Creating uncertainty within the industry, this approach to net neutrality has the potential to undermine billions in private investment needed to upgrade networks, expand coverage and grow our still-struggling economy. Market analysts agree: such an unexpected shift in broadband policy would deter new investment where and when it is needed most.
The new proposed regulations are also likely to widen the digital divide by potentially pricing broadband beyond the reach of many low and moderate-income Americans.
A majority of the members of Congress have made their concerns publicly known, as well as eight national civil rights, labor and environmental leaders who recently sent a letter to John D. Rockefeller, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman, and Henry A. Waxman, the House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman. These organizations, which include the country's largest labor union (Communications Workers of America) and the most prominent minority-rights group (NAACP) asked Congress to take quick action and clarify the FCC's attempts to impose increased regulations on the Internet.
The appeal to Chairman Rockefeller and Chairman Waxman emphasized the importance of carefully targeted legislation that would foster world-class broadband and ensure that every American is equipped with the skills critical to taking part in a digital society. Narrowly-tailored legislation will empower the Commission to advance core consensus elements of the National Broadband Plan, including initiatives to promote digital literacy, universal service reform, and spectrum availability.
At the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), we believe applying old regulations to new technologies merely because it seems legally viable will not solve current market realities, no matter how well they are implemented or how much the Commission promises to forbear.
Comments to the FCC on this latest flavor of net neutrality are due this Thursday, July 15. In our response to the NOI, the IIA will urge the Commission to show regulatory restraint. If you have an interest in the future of the Internet, we encourage you to weigh in and submit your own response here.
David Sutphen, co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), is a monthly FierceTelecom columnist.
Credibility gap could stall investment if FCC's 'third way' implemented
Net neutrality regulation could cost jobs, argues study