D.C. Dives Into Title II

Reaction Ranges From 'Triumph' to 'Horror'
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Washington was quick to react to Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler's official announcement of what most already knew: He is proposing to reclassify Internet access under Title II common-carrier regulations.

Whether it was a big blow or a boon to the 'net definitely depended on the vantage point.

“The proposed update to net-neutrality rules is a triumph for the American consumer," said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). "The American people asked for the strongest possible rules to ensure a free and open Internet, and Chairman Wheeler has heard their voices by proposing to reclassify broadband under Title II of the Communications Act."

"“After months of debate and record comment by the American public, I am pleased that it appears the Chairman has rejected the idea of so-called Internet fast lanes," said Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.). “Throughout this debate, I have listened carefully to my constituents, small businesses, start-ups, schools and libraries.  I held a field hearing at the California State Capitol to ensure that the FCC heard the voice of my district.  The message that has come through loud and clear is that we cannot divide the Internet into a two-tiered system."

“I congratulate Chairman Wheeler for his leadership in putting forth a proposal to establish net neutrality rules tailored for the 21st century," said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), ranking member of the Senate Communications Subcommittee. "A free and open Internet is critical to fostering innovation and enabling continued investment in our nation’s broadband network.  It must continue to be a level playing field where everyone has an equal opportunity to compete.  I am pleased that the Chairman’s proposal bans blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization for both mobile and fixed broadband providers.  I believe that these new proposed rules provide clear regulatory guidance for industry while at the same time, preserving the FCC’s authority to prevent other forms of discrimination that threaten Internet openness in the future.”

“This is a victory for consumers and entrepreneurs,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “The proposal would ensure that the Internet remains a space for the open exchange of ideas and information, free of discrimination and corporate control.”

“This is a banner day as years of grassroots organizing is paying historic public interest dividends," said former FCC Chairman Michael Copps, now a . Congratulations to Chairman Wheeler and his supportive colleagues for hearing what millions have said: only the strongest Open Internet rules will protect competition and free expression online,” said former FCC Commissioner and Common Cause Special Adviser Michael Copps, now a special advisor to Common Cause.

Free Press seconded that.

“Chairman Wheeler’s announcement today is the culmination of a decade of dedicated grassroots organizing and advocacy," said Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood. "We’re now one step closer to restoring real public interest protections to our nation’s communications policies. If the full FCC adopts the chairman’s proposal, and it’s free of any last-minute surprises, then everyone’s right to communicate freely online will be secured. We commend Chairman Wheeler’s actions and his willingness to listen to the facts in the face of a fiercely dishonest industry lobbying effort."

“The Internet has flourished because people have the power to choose for themselves what they see and do online," said Alan Davidson, VP of New America and director of the Open Technology Institute. "The approach proposed by the FCC Chairman today would protect the free and open Internet for a next generation of broadband Internet users. It appears to offer strong protections for both wired and wireless Internet access, grounded in a measured way with the legal authority needed to enforce those rules."

“Public Knowledge commends Chairman Wheeler for siding with network users by announcing his support for strong Open Internet rules grounded in Title II authority," said Chris Lewis, VP of government Affairs at Public Knowledge. "This is a historic announcement by Chairman Wheeler, and a decision that consumers have been demanding for some time. Americans have waited over a year for the FCC to restore the Open Internet protections that were vacated by the DC Circuit Court."

But it was not all flowers and kudos.

"The Internet economy, developed without federal regulation, is one of the few bright spots in an otherwise stagnant American economy. 

Regulating the Internet will not help America. It will hurt," said former Republican Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth. "It will discourage investment in networks. It will discourage the development of a faster, more consumer-friendly Internet. It will lead to at least two years of intense litigation during which a great deal of uncertainty will cover the Internet."

“Recognizing the horror of their actions, the FCC will attempt to forbear from the worst forms of regulation on the Internet. The forbearance theory of the FCC is untested, and unlikely to succeed. Groups will petition courts to challenge the FCC's ability to forbear without public notice and comment and evidence," Furchtgott-Roth said. "The FCC will be in an awkward position of designating broadband as a telecommunications service and at the same time picking and choosing which telecommunications service regulation will apply, and which will not."

“I urge Chairman Wheeler to reconsider his plan to treat broadband services under common carrier rules," said Rick Boucher, former Democratic chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee and honrary chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance. "Subjecting broadband to public utility regulation under Title II is unnecessary for assuring continued Internet openness and would carry deeply harmful consequences.

"Internet infrastructure investment would be stifled at a time when we have a national goal of extending high-speed Internet service to 98 percent of Americans," Boucher said.

"Title II common carrier regulations represent a strong shift towards a European-style, precautionary regulation, over-regulating up-front without legitimate justification," said Doug Brake, telecommunications policy analyst at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). "This path will make it much harder to do pro-consumer network management, and is more likely to balkanize the Internet into distinct private networks and specialized services....As ITIF has repeatedly stated, the decision to classify broadband as a telecommunication service in order to apply common carrier regulations is an unjustified, overblown response to what has in actuality been a by-and-large hypothetical concern.

“The Chairman’s plan to impose overreaching, outdated regulations to the broadband arena will increase uncertainty in the U.S. communications sector and could have grave implications for mobile innovators, investors and consumers," said Jonathan Spalter, chair of Mobile Future. "While we strongly support an open Internet, it is deeply disappointing that the FCC is turning its back on decades of bipartisan, pro-consumer, pro-investment policies that have led to the dynamic mobile marketplace that hundreds of millions of Americans enjoy today.”

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