Pai Worried FCC Might Be Heading Toward Title II

Says Would Hurt Fixed Wireless ISPs

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai warned fixed wireless Internet service Providers (WISPs) Wednesday that he is worried the FCC might be headed toward Title II regulation.

In a speech to  WISPAPALOOZA, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association conference in Las Vegas Oct. 15, Pai took a page from former President Ronald Reagan to make his point. "President Ronald Reagan wisely said that the 'government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.' Unfortunately, I’m worried that’s where the FCC might be headed when it comes to the Internet."

Saying "everyone wants a free and open Internet," Pai also invoked National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Michael Powell in his former job. "One decade ago, then-FCC Chairman Michael Powell outlined four principles of Internet Freedom: The freedom to access lawful content, the freedom to use applications, the freedom to attach personal devices to the network, and the freedom to obtain service plan information. Republicans and Democrats, consumers and industry, everyone agreed with these principles."

It was the FCC’s attempt to apply those principles to Comcast that prompted the court fights that ultimately resulted in the most recent D.C. federal court invalidation of no-blocking and anti-unreasonable discrimination rules, which FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is trying to restore on firmer legal ground.

Pai said the debate isn't about those four freedoms, or neutrality, or even paid prioritization, but about whether the FCC should abandon a "Clinton-eara" decision not to classify ISP's under Title II common carrier price regulations and other obligations.

"It’s about whether a few unelected government officials should reclassify broadband as a Title II service and subject broadband providers like WISPs to rules based on 19th-century railroad regulation," he said.

Pai said the concerns of small businesses--like WISPs, which serve many smaller and rural communities--need to be "front and center in this debate, not an afterthought to an ideological crusade."

He said Title II would mean the FCC having to decide how to apply a host of Title II regs, and WISP having to hire some 'expensive accountants."

"Most WISPs already file FCC Form 477 to report where you offer service each year," he used for an example. "Now think about similar reporting on outages, on your revenues, on your prices and service offerings. Think about quarterly certifications that you comply with a host of regulatory obligations. And think about the possibility of increased liability from enforcement. For as WISPA has observed, 'with more rules to follow, chances for a small broadband provider to be hauled into an enforcement proceeding also increase.'"

"Under the FCC’s proposed rules, the federal government could look over your shoulders and second-guess every step you take to manage your customers’ online experience," he told his audience. "You may see it as ordinary and reasonable network management, but someone in Washington may claim it’s a net neutrality violation."

The FCC is currently deciding whether to use Sec. 706 authority to enforce new net neutrality rules, or reclassify ISP's under Title II regs, or some combination of the two.