NCTA Asks FCC Not to Regulate Provision of Internet Access Services

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The National Cable & Telecommunications Association has asked the FCC not to regulate the provision of Internet access services, period, echoing its call for "vigilant restraint."

NCTA says that classifying broadband as a Title II telecommunications service is "unsustainable" as a matter of either law or policy, that the FCC should not expand its openness principles to include transparency or nondiscrimination, saying that would be costly and counterproductive, and that any rules it does apply should be applied to wireless ISPs and application providers.

That came in reply comments late on April 26 on the FCC's proposed network neutrality rulemaking, just one of a parade of comments that were filed all day, including from the wireless carriers saying net neutrality rules should not apply to them, and public advocacy groups saying that the FCC should reclassify broadband for the sake of keeping a cop on the network management beat.

The FCC delayed its comment deadline to April 26 from earlier in the month so that folks could weigh in on the implications of the BitTorrent decision, which said the commission had not justified its network management ruling against Comcast. That has prompted calls for the commission to classify broadband as a Title II telecommunications service subject to more stringent regulation that its current Title I information service classification.

NCTA's response was short and sweet. "The Title II path urged by the proponents of Internet regulation would lead the Commission into an untenable regulatory and policy thicket that would only frustrate and stifle the innovation, investment and rapid growth that have characterized the Internet since the arrival of broadband service," said NCTA.

It spent much more space (six-and-a-half pages vs. two paragraphs) pointing to what it said were the First Amendment implications of network neutrality regulations.

NCTA argues that net neutrality proponents can't both insist the FCC "control decisions by Internet service providers," and at the he same time "maintain that Internet service providers do not make decisions about speech that they deliver."

"If [the FCC] wishes to dictate the speech that Internet service providers may offer," said the cable operators, "then it must accept the First Amendment scrutiny that goes with government efforts to control a private marketplace for speech. And, that is a scrutiny that the proposed rules cannot pass."

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has said that he thinks the FCC has the authority to implement the broadband plan and protect Internet openness, but he has not elaborated beyond saying agency lawyers are hard at work making sure whatever the commission does has a solid legal foundation.

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