State Regulators Concerned About FCC Broadband Preemption


State regulators are looking to propose a "fourth way" approach to reclassifying broadband that keeps them in the regulatory loop.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has proposed a "third way" approach to classifying broadband transmissions as Title II common carrier services, but only applying a handful of those regulations. That approach would also preempt state regulators from applying any regs the FCC was not applying itself.

Members of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners are preparing to debate a resolution calling on the FCC to consider a "fourth way" approach of "bi-jurisdictional regulatory oversight" that "recognizes the particular expertise of States," including public safety and broadband mapping.

That is according to a draft of a resolution being circulated by NARUC that, among others, will be debated and voted on at NARUC's summer meeting in Sacramento, starting July 18. The draft has to be voted out of committee, and then approved (or not) by the board, so there could be changes before then.

NARUC points to the states' current role in broadband data collection per the Commerce Department stimulus-funding program, and to the national broadband plan's role for states as reasons to include them in the broadband regulatory framework.

Members describe the bi-jurisdictional approach as one that "allocates state and federal responsibility over broadband Internet connectivity service and broadband Internet service based on analysis of the characteristics of each governmental function exercised," and which level of government is better equipped to handle it.

They argue that states have particular expertise in "managing front-line consumer education, protection and services programs; ensuring public safety; ensuring network service quality and reliability; collecting and mapping broadband service infrastructure and adoption data; designing and promoting broadband service availability and adoption programs; and implementing competitively neutral pole attachment, rights-of-way and tower sitting rules and programs."

If the FCC decides to go its own, "third way," they say, it should not change the state's authority under the Telecommunications Act to "preserve and advance universal service, protect the public safety and welfare, ensure the continued quality of telecommunications services, and safeguard the rights of consumers."