NCTA, ITIF, BFA, USTelecom: Waxman Hybrid Headed in Wrong Direction

Argue Net Neutrality Proposal Would Chill Investment (NCTA)

Title II opponents were not flocking to the proposal by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) that the FCC use both a stripped-down Title II AND Sec. 706 authority to underpin new network neutrality rules.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, Information Technology and Information Foundation, US Telecom, and Broadband for America, framed their opposition to the hybrid proposal in senatorial-like courtesy, but the message was clear: Thanks but no thanks, even a little Title II is too much.

"We appreciate Ranking Member Waxman’s thoughtful proposal in that it implicitly recognizes the onerous dangers of applying backward looking regulation to the Internet," said NCTA in a statement. "Nonetheless, the reclassification of broadband as a Title II service is unnecessary to provide consumers with reasonable network neutrality protections and will result in years of uncertainty and legal tussles. History has shown that forbearance is far from certain or quick and Title II advocates have already indicated their opposition to the type of forbearance that this approach suggests. At a time when the Internet economy is growing and thriving, regulatory uncertainty would only chill investment, innovation and the tremendous progress we’ve become accustomed to.”

That was seconded by Doug Brake, a telecom policy analyst with the Information Technology and Information Foundation (ITIF), who said the "hybrid" was actually a regulatory flexibility guzzler.

“While Congressman Waxman has clearly put some thought into this letter, we would argue that were the FCC to follow its advice, it would be taking a step backward, not forward regarding the debate over net neutrality," he said.

"First, the framing of the letter as a ‘hybrid’ compromise between 706 and Title II is inappropriate. His proposal would gut section 706 of all its advantages, effectively removing the FCC’s ability to carefully decide what forms of discrimination are appropriate over time. The approach is more a combination of the worst of Title II with expanded FCC section 706 power than anything resembling a compromise. Congressman Waxman fears the main advantage of 706 – its flexibility.

"The FCC is in this pickle to begin with because the outdated silos of the Communications Act do not suit the converging world of broadband. Congress should be focusing on rewriting a new Communications Act to meet this new reality rather than advising the FCC to shoe-horn new regulations into old ones.”

“We appreciate Rep. Waxman’s effort to propose a new approach than we’ve seen before in the pending Open Internet rulemaking at the FCC,” said USTelecom President Walter McCormick. “But reclassification remains a non-starter for our industry. Moreover, the legal reasoning underpinning Rep. Waxman’s letter is fatally flawed. The viability of his recommendation hinges entirely on the FCC’s ability to forbear from the most significant sections of Title II, an enormous task that the FCC has never undertaken and that the last Democratic chairman determined was ill-advised. Rep. Waxman’s approach risks the robust Internet investment that is occurring today and is a sure road to years of litigation, rather than the clear path that the D.C. Circuit laid out through Section 706.”

"Rep. Henry Waxman's suggestion that the Federal Communications Commission reclassify the Internet under Title II would stifle investment, innovation and consumer choice," said Broadband for America. "There is no half step or hybrid approach when it comes to reclassifying the Internet under Title II.  It is shortsighted to think that opening the door to more regulation, market uncertainty and legal questions with his proposed 'Title II light' approach would end in anything less than the overregulation of a flourishing industry. Rather than resorting to such drastic measures, lawmakers should urge the FCC to avoid reclassification of the Internet as a Title II public utility and to protect the light-touch approach that has been helping the extraordinary growth and deployment of high speed internet for decades."