Municipal providers protest FCC's Title II net neutrality proposal

A group of 43 municipal broadband providers are asking the FCC to exempt them from being included with large incumbent telcos and wireless operators as being common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. 

In a letter they sent to the FCC, which will vote on the net neutrality proposal during its monthly meeting on Feb. 26, the 43 municipal providers said they should not be lumped in with the rest of the rabble because they have no "incentive to harm the openness of the Internet."

"As smaller ISPs, we do not have an incentive to harm the openness of the Internet," the group wrote in a letter to the FCC. "All of the undersigned face competition from one or more wireline ISPs, and we compete hard to attract and serve customers who would depart to our competitors if we engage in any business practices that interfere with their Internet experience."

The municipal broadband movement has entered in a state of flux with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler also considering measures to overturn 20 state laws that either ban or restrict the growth of municipal broadband networks. Not surprisingly, the FCC's proposals have been met with opposition from both traditional wireline service providers like Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T) as well as Republican commissioners.

Among the 43 cities that took part in the letter is Cedar Falls, Iowa, which recently hosted President Barack Obama, who made a plea to the FCC to also overturn existing anti-municipal broadband laws. Interestingly, the letter did not include Chattanooga, Tenn., or Wilson, N.C., two cities that have also asked the FCC to overturn the anti-municipal broadband laws they have on the books.

For his part, Wheeler has said that small Internet providers "have all come in and said, 'we like Title II, we hope you'll do Title II.'"

However, groups like the American Cable Association (ACA), which represents more than 900 small and medium-sized providers, including 100 municipal providers, claim that these operators are not OK with the Title II proposal.

"ACA applauds the 43 municipal broadband Internet providers that are also ACA members for speaking out about the harms of Title II reclassification for smaller ISPs," CEO Matthew Polka said in a statement. "ACA agrees with their clear message that the FCC Chairman should make changes to the order to accommodate these concerns before the scheduled vote on Feb. 26."

In addition to voting on the net neutrality Title II proposal, the FCC is set to vote on the municipal broadband issue, including petitions filed by Chattanooga and Wilson, during its meeting on Feb. 26.  

For more:
- see the FCC letter
- Ars Technica has this article

Complete coverage: Net neutrality for wireless and wireline carriers

Related articles:
Verizon's McAdam: FCC Title II proposal influenced $10.5B wireline asset sale to Frontier
FCC says proposed net neutrality rules will withstand legal challenges from AT&T, Verizon
State groups, lawmakers say FCC has no authority to overturn anti-municipal broadband laws
FCC commissioners remain divided on municipal broadband issue

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