Sprint has provided the FCC some cover for going the Title II route to reinstating Open Internet rules, but only if new rules continue to recognize the "unique network management challenges" of mobile broadband.
In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, Stephen Bye, Sprint chief technology officer, said that Sprint doesn't think that "a light touch application of Title II, including appropriate forbearance, would harm the continued investment in, and deployment of, mobile broadband."
CTIA, the wireless industry's lobby, has been pushing back on Title II, by contrast.
Still, there was a caveat in that Title II support. Sprint supports Title II, or other ways of supporting new rules, only if they "give carriers the flexibility to manage our networks and differentiate out services in the market." That means recognizing the "unique challenges" that mobile carriers face, which was why the FCC did not apply some of the net neutrality rules to wireless the first time around.
Bye closed the letter by saying Sprint still believed that competition, not regulation, was the optimum route to the best mobile service at the lowest price, and urged the FCC and Congress--which is making noises like it wants to get into the net neutrality rule business--not to get distracted by the Title II debate, but instead focus on making sure that whatever it does, recognizes "the unique network management challenges faced by mobile carriers and the need to allow mobile carriers the flexibility to design products and services to differentiate ourselves in the market."
But, "so long as the FCC continues to allow wireless carriers to manage our networks and differentiate our products, Sprint will continue to invest in data networks regardless of whether they are regulated by Title II, Section 706, or some other light touch regulatory regime," Bye added.
The threat to investment of Title II reclassification has been one of the ISPs' major arguments against doing so.
Michael Copps, special advisor to Common Cause, and a Title II fan dating back to his days as FCC commissioner and chairman, was pleased.
"Thanks to Sprint for sprinting ahead on the Open Internet, acknowledging what we have long known: strong net neutrality is good for consumers, competition, innovation and free expression online," he said in a statement. "Sprint’s competitors could learn a thing a thing or two from its corporate leadership. This is more evidence that it is time for the FCC to act on Title II reclassification."