Democrats Take Aim at Title II

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Free Press is looking to get out in front of a couple of letters being circulated among Republicans and Democrats taking aim at FCC chairman Julius Genachowski's plan to classify the transmission portion of broadband as a Title II telecommunications service, subject to at least a few of the common carrier regs applied to such services.

One letter is from Gene Green (D-Tex.) and at least 73 other House Democrats, who indicate that the Title II proposal will jeopardize jobs and deter investment. Addressed to the chairman, the letter said that they have "serious concerns" about the plan.

"The expanded FCC jurisdiction over broadband that has been proposed and the manner in which it would be implemented are unprecedented and create regulatory uncertainty," they wrote "The controversy surrounding that approach will likely serve as a distraction from what should be our Nation's foremost communications priority: bringing broadband to every corner of America, getting every American online, and providing the high-speed connections needed to realize the promises of telemedicine, distance learning, and other forms of consumer empowerment."

A source familiar with the letter said that it currently has 74 signatures, all Democrats, and will be sent sometime today.

A second letter is being readied by Republican leaders on the House Commerce Committee and Communications Subcommittee, according to Free Press, which has created an online tool (at www.savetheinternet.com) that highlights some of both letters' points against the group's own views in support of reclassifcation.

The Republican letter uses even stronger language than the Democrats', essentially leading off by telling the chairman to stop and leave the issue to Congress (it is unclear how many Republicans have signed on).

Both letters suggest the chairman should wait for marching orders from Congress before weighing in, something the Bells and cable ISP's have been arguing for.

The commission is expected soon to issue a notice of inquiry and notice of proposed forbearance on Title II reclassification. It has already outlined the proposal but will get input in the NOI and officially signal in the forbearance notice the vast majority of Title II regs that it will not apply to broaband.

A May 24 editorial in The Washington Post was along the same lines of the two letters, saying it is "nonsense" to think ISPs will leap into a regulatory void to "engage in mischief," arguing the Title II move is "unacceptable," and suggesting congressional action in concert with industry, again echoing arguments made by the major phone and cable companies.

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