Saturday, November 28, 2015

Legislators urge FCC not to reclassify broadband under Communications Act

Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said on Tuesday that reclassifying broadband Internet as a common carrier telecommunications service could stifle job creation, innovation and investment.

Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the chairman of the committee, and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the vice chairwoman of the committee, raised concerns in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler about the commission considering the reclassification of broadband.

"Such unwarranted and overreaching government intrusion into the broadband marketplace will harm consumers, halt job creation, curtail investment, stifle innovation and set America down a dangerous path of micromanaging the internet," the legislators said. "The commission must reject this approach."

Reclassification of broadband under Title II of the Communications Act would subject broadband providers to regulations similar to those that have covered the phone system since 1934.

"Over a decade ago, the FCC wisely rejected calls to regulate broadband service as a Title II service, noting Congress's explicit direction to leave the internet 'unfettered by federal or state regulation,'" the legislators said. "The result of this regulatory restraint has been billions of dollars in private sector investment, tremendous annual increases in broadband speeds and an explosion of applications, content and services available to consumers over the Internet."

The legislators said reclassification of broadband would prevent pricing innovation and force consumers to pay the entire cost of building and operating internet access networks. They said the change would make broadband unaffordable for many customers.

"Investors, investment analysts and broadband companies have advised that regulating broadband as a Title II service will create such regulatory uncertainty that stock values will drop and investment capital will become much harder to find," the legislators said. "Decreased investment leads to deferred maintenance, infrequent upgrades and stalled deployment, which, at best, leads to higher consumer prices and at worst leaves consumers with fewer, if any, reliable choices."

Reps. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Bob Latta (R-Ohio) joined Upton and Blackburn in urging the FCC not to consider reclassifying broadband.