NCTA: Wireless Should Not Get Net Neutrality Immunity

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The National Cable & Telecommunications Association says that while there is no justification for regulating broadband Internet access service, if the Federal Communications Commission chooses to do so, it must apply those regs to wireless as well as wired broadband, but should not apply them to managed services.

"Neither wireline nor wireless broadband services should be subject to codified 'net neutrality' rules," NCTA said in reply comments to the FCC Thursday. "[Nonetheless,] wireless broadband, like all other broadband offerings, is an information service, and as such is no more or less within the FCC's authority to impose net neutrality requirements as any other broadband information service."

The organization added, "Given that none of the adverse, much less apocalyptic, effects predicted by the proponents of regulation have come to pass, there is no reason to adopt any rules at this time -and, especially, no reason to adopt rules that apply broadly to largely hypothetical services other than broadband Internet access service that may be offered by Internet service providers over their broadband facilities. The latest round of comments provides further evidence that the adoption of such rules is overwhelmingly likely to do more harm than good."

NCTA said there is nothing unique about wireless that justifies exemption, and that if the FCC does want to give providers flexibility in managing their networks, it should provide that flexibility to wired as well. It pointed out that there is a wireless component to wired broadband in homes with wireless routers.

"The overlap between wired and wireless networks will only increase as carriers deploy femtocells, which are small base stations that provide enhanced wireless coverage of the customer's premises and plug into the customer's wired broadband connection," the cable trade group said.

NCTA also took aim at the wireless carriers' argument that the FCC lacks authority to regulate them. While conceding what it said are the "legal infirmities" in the FCC's effort to regulate any broadband industry, wireless can claim no unique legal immunity.

The FCC has proposed codifying and expanding its network neutrality guidelines, but the BitTorrent ruling has delayed any action while the commission decides how to clarify its broadband oversight authority. Thursday was the deadline for reply comments in its further request for information on whether to apply those rules, if it can codify them, to wireless broadband and managed services.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has said that wireless will be an increasingly important player in broadband.

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