Rich Boucher, former Democratic chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee, says Congress should step in to resolve the debate over how the FCC should restore new open Internet rules, calling it "low hanging fruit."
Boucher, who now chairs the government strategies practice at Sidley Austin, said in an op ed Tuesday that before the FCC votes Feb. 26 on new rules, Congress should step in to put its stamp of approval on the 2010 rules, which were thrown out by a D.C. federal appeals court for lack of clear legislative authority, and "circumscribe" the FCC's ability to impose Title II regs on broadband, which Boucher says would be "onerous" regs. Boucher agrees with Title II critics that they would be monopoly-era rules from the rotary phone era that would stifle innovation.
"Narrow legislation that specifically empowers the FCC to re-promulgate the 2010 Open Internet Rule would simultaneously cure the D.C. Circuit’s objection that the FCC lacked the statutory authority to act, maintain the existing classification of broadband, avoid imposing new barriers to investment associated with reclassification, and assure that rules are in place that maintain Internet openness," he wrote. "While enabling the FCC to adopt the 2010 Rule, the legislation would circumscribe the agency’s authority to impose onerous Title II regulations on broadband."
Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) this week proposed legislation that would modify the Communications Act to specifically bar the FCC from reclassifying ISPs under Title II, but would not restore the 2010 rules.
Boucher's position is consistent with his days in Congress. In 2010, he advocated for targeted legislation that would establish network openness without applying Title II regulations to broadband.
Boucher is also honorary chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance, a group advocating for broadband buildouts whose members include AT&T, Corning and Alcatel-Lucent.