Cable ISPs Hammer Title II Decision

NCTA: It's Up to Congress to Step In

Cable's Internet service providers were quick to blast the Federal Communications Commission over its 3-2 party-line vote to reclassify Internet access as a telecom service subject to some Title II regulation.

“Today, the FCC took one of the most regulatory steps in its history," said Michael Powell, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, who was FCC chairman in 2002 when the commission classified ISPs as an information service not subject to Title II common-carrier regs.

"[The FCC] began regulating the Internet, abruptly abandoning a bipartisan national commitment to limited government involvement that has reigned for decades," Powell said, adding that it was time for Congress to step in. 

“This extraordinary action has been justified by the desire to preserve net neutrality, but the FCC order goes well beyond that reasonable objective," he said. "The FCC has taken the overwhelming support for an Open Internet and pried open the door to heavy-handed government regulation in a space celebrated for its free enterprise. The commission has breathed new life into the decayed telephone regulatory model and applied it to the most dynamic, free-wheeling and innovative platform in history. 

“Since the dawn of broadband Internet service, consumers have enjoyed a fully open Internet," Powell continued. "Our industry has always been committed to providing that experience to our customers. The day after this order becomes law, consumers will see nothing different in their experience. However, they surely will bear the burden of new taxes and increased costs, and they will likely wait longer for faster and more innovative networks since investment will slow in the face of bureaucratic oversight.

“With years of uncertainty and unintended consequences ahead of us, it falls to Congress to step in," Powell said. "Working together, our legislative leaders can protect an open Internet, while ensuring that it remains free for innovation without government permission and that it continues to create strong incentives to deploying ever-faster broadband to every American. The FCC has taken us in a distressing direction. We must now look to other branches of government for a more balanced resolution.”

The American Cable Association was also concerned.

"FCC actions are supposed to be based on data, not conjecture," ACA President Matthew Polka said. "Yet, in adopting the Open Internet Order today, the FCC ignores uncontested data in the record demonstrating that imposing Title II regulation on small and mid-sized ISPs beyond the three 'bright line' net-neutrality rules will impose burdens without benefit to an open Internet. As a result of this ‘unreasoned' action, the FCC inflicts upon small and mid-sized ISPs unwarranted and irreparably harmful common-carrier rules that have nothing to do with ensuring net neutrality." 

The FCC apparently provided some small carve-out for smaller operators, but it was cold comfort to the ACA.

"From statements at today's FCC public meeting, it appears that the FCC chairman's proposed order has been changed to provide a temporary exemption from enhanced transparency rules for some small ISPs and that small ISPs will be shielded from having to defend their practices against federal class action lawsuits," Polka said. "While ACA appreciates this, it provides virtually no solace for smaller ISPs that will be swept under by a tsunami of new and totally alien regulatory requirements contained in the final Order. Compliance with these new rules will be costly, and these increased costs will affect the subscriber revenues essential to support the provision and improvement of broadband services and continued network investments, despite FCC assurances to the contrary.

"ACA is disappointed with the overall action, but it is most distressed that the FCC acted contrary to the facts," Polka added. "Small and medium-sized ISPs are not the root of any open Internet problem, and they should have been held harmless from the collateral damage of unnecessary Title II regulation."