Muni Nets Pan Title II

Seeking Forbearance of All Common-Carrier Regs

Some of the municipal broadband nets the Obama administration is keen on giving a boost have asked the Federal Communications Commission not to apply Title II regulations for a start.

In a Feb. 10 letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, more than three dozen of those said the balance of power is in favor of the edge providers, like Netflix, Amazon or Hulu, which are not subject to the new rules beyond being able to complain about the conduct of Internet service providers, not smaller operators.

"Because we lack the incentive and ability to harm Internet edge providers, there is no basis for the Commission to reclassify our Internet service for the purpose of imposing any Title II common-carrier obligations," they wrote, "but most particularly the core common-carrier requirements contained in Sections 201, 202 and 208."

Those are the three that could conceivably allow the FCC to regulate rates through a case-by-case complaint procedure, they argue. They also say that even if this FCC does not do that, it is "cold comfort" since a future FCC could. They also point out that liability for violations through the complaint process, including the recovery of damages, is very troubling.

"Our ability to repay current debt obligations and raise capital at attractive rates could well be adversely affected if we lose control over our retail rates or the use of and access to our networks," they said. "Because our rates must be set to recover costs, we would be forced to flow these additional costs of service through to our subscribers."

The carriers say that if the FCC applies Title II, it should essentially forbear all of it, declare Internet access to be an interstate service, preempt state regulations and exempt smaller carriers from enhanced transparency requirements.

Currently there is no exemption for smaller ISPs from the proposed Title II-based rules, which are being voted on Feb. 26.

“ACA applauds the 43 municipal broadband Internet providers that are also ACA members for speaking out about the harms of Title II reclassification for smaller ISPs," said American Cable Association president Matthew Polka. "ACA agrees with their clear message that the FCC chairman should make changes to the order to accommodate these concerns before the scheduled vote on Feb. 26.”