Net Neutrality: Title I Regs Better Than Title II Shakeup
The dust still hasn’t settled 24 hours after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a taste of what its compromise net-neutrality plan may look like when it’s revealed at the Dec. 21 open meeting (click here for more).
According to Jeffrey S. Silva, senior policy director/Telecommunications, Media and Technology at Washington, D.C.-based Medley Global Advisors LLC, the commission’s proposal, which he says is more palatable to major industry cable and telecom players than is a Title II reclassification, “is unlikely to play well with either liberal or conservative elements of the political spectrum” and litigation could be in the offing.
“The middle-ground solution on net neutrality, which became increasingly inevitable as a result of the Republican surge and industry/organized labor opposition to a Title II reclassification model they warned could chill investment and job creation, would not require enabling legislation from Congress,” Silva wrote in an analyst note. “Unlike the legislative compromise unsuccessfully pitched by House Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) shortly before the congressional recess for midterm elections, (FCC Chairman) Genachowski’s proposed net-neutrality guidelines do not include a two-year sunset provision. Verizon wanted a sunset clause incorporated in upcoming net-neutrality rules so as to limit their impact to an interim period and thereby create an opening for Congress to write legislation for the long term.”
As Silva notes, the devil is in the details.
“While we believe wireline telecom, cable and wireless broadband service providers would likely have ample flexibility to set tiered pricing and offer managed services without explicitly running afoul of new open Internet rules, much about the prospective new policy remains unknown (and unpredictable) until details of a final order are released, legally interpreted and tested in the marketplace when complaints – such as those lodged against Comcast by Level 3 and Zoom – arise,” he wrote.
And there could be some horse trading going on prior to the Dec. 21 open FCC meeting, with all factions involved in the proposed regulations (including the commissioners themselves) trying to get their changes put into the language.
“Open Internet policy could become a dynamic proposition and evolve in fits and starts as skirmishes between broadband operators and others come before the FCC,” Silva concludes. “That process could establish an asymmetric universe of regulatory precedents over time. As such, the commission could find itself assuming a gatekeeper role that could abundantly manifest itself in de facto implementation of a new Title I net neutrality regime.”
More Industry Reaction
After yesterday’s CT Reports deadline, more parties of interest submitted their takes on the FCC’s open-Internet plan, including American Cable Association President & CEO Matthew Polka, who said, “A Title II framework would have imposed large and burdensome costs on small cable operators that offer broadband service, as ACA documented in filings with the agency this year. It’s also important that Chairman Genachowski’s statement recognized the importance of business innovation that promotes network investment and efficient use of networks, including measures that match price to cost, such as usage-based pricing.”?
Added Richard Bennett, senior research analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, “We believe the chairman’s plan will be broadly supported, and for good reasons. We also believe the plan will help tamp down the often acrimonious controversy over how to best oversee the development of the Internet, establish regulatory clarity, and promote investment in faster and more pervasive broadband networks. The framework avoids the unnecessary and unproductive use of the Title II ‘nuclear option,’ which would not have been helpful in any case regarding the alleged violations of Open Internet principles we’ve seen in the past.”
Other special-interest groups chimed in as well, such as Gus West, co-chairman of the Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) and chairman of The Hispanic Institute, who also favors the FCC’s plan: “In our increasingly connected world, Hispanics continue to lag behind in their adoption of broadband technology, putting our growing population at a serious disadvantage in the classroom, in the workplace, and in every day life. Broadband connectivity holds tremendous promise and opportunity – not just for Hispanics, but for all Americans – at this very critical time.”
“Such a plan…would allow for large segments of the African American population to access healthcare solutions via wired and wireless broadband connections, benefiting everyone. Healthcare costs are reduced through such technologies, and new offerings powered by the Internet allow for better monitoring and care of chronic diseases disproportionately impacting the urban and rural communities, “ commented Kweisi Mfume, executive director of the National Medical Association. “Reaching agreement on net neutrality would stimulate further investment in telemedicine technologies; bring affordable access to more Americans, and work to eliminate healthcare disparities in underserved communities."
Finally, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued the following statement: “Broadband is an integral tool in promoting civic engagement and is crucial to voter education, mobilization and protection. We are equally concerned during these tough economic times with jobs and the pace of the nation’s recovery. We believe that the FCC’s proposal will help foster equal access to affordable and sustainable broadband and stimulate job creation in all communities, including underserved, rural, low-income, and racial and ethnic minority communities.”
– Debra Baker