Telecommunications Industry Association board members will be flying into Washington next week to "plead" with the Federal Communications Commission not to reclassify broadband as a Title II service and to urge Congress to help clarify the agency's broadband authority.
That is according to TIA vice president of government affairs, Danielle Coffey. "It absolutely slaughtered our industry in the past when certain Title II provisions have been imposed on our customers," she said. "We have lived through it and they are coming back to say: 'Don't do it again,' and we are pleading with them not to."
Coffey said the Hill "may be the only ones who can" provide the regulatory certainty they need. TIA members include AT&T Wireless, Alcatel-Lucent, Harris and Hughes.
"We are flying in about 15 CEOs of manufacturers and providers of telecom equipment on Sept. 15 and 16," she said to meet with House Telecommunications Subcommittee chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.), House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking House Telecom committee member Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and senior Republican Robert McDowell.
"This issue is really, really important to our industry," she said.
Jason Goldman, counsel for telecommunications and e-commerce, for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said his group would be talking to many of the same folks, as well as reaching out to the grass roots.
Marc-Anthony Signorino, director of technology policy, National Association of Manufacturers. said they would be talking to stakeholders and "putting out good karma to the universe" on getting their way on the broadband issue.
The three hosted a conference call Thursday in advance of the return of Congress next week. Their message was that the government should do nothing to discourage deployment and investment in broadband and the job growth and consumer benefits it provides. Goldman pointed out that the chamber represented some 3 million businesses, many of of whom need broadband to grow from small businesses into big ones.
What they don't want is the FCC reclassifying broadband under Title II. What they do want: some regulatory certainty from Congress based on industry negotiations over an agreed-to set of openness principles.
They also don't want Congress to rush though, saying legislators should take their time, and suggesting they did not see anything likely happening in this Congress. Signorini said there was no crisis that should be prompting a rush to act, saying there was no evidence of harms, and there was plenty of authority among the FCC, Federal Trade Commission, Department of Justice and the courts to deal with any that might arise.
All three said they supported adding a transparency principle to the FCC's existing four broadband "freedoms" and even a version of a "nondiscrimination" principle so long as it had sufficient qualifications and modifications.
Coffey said, though, that the devil would be in the details on that issue. "If there is language surrounding any requirement that makes us feel comfortable, then we would absolutely be supportive of that," she said. "What we are looking for is a solution that allows us to move forward. It is not about one word or one issue..."
Signorino and Goldman agreed.
In its request for more comment on the expansion/codification of network neutrality principles, the FCC said that industry players were getting close to an agreement on principles including some form of nondiscrimination.
With TIA representing manufactures on all platforms -- wired as well as wireless broadband -- it takes a "technology neutral" position when it comes to application of regulations.
But at the same time, asked whether or not TIA supported exempting wireless broadband from openness principles, Cofffey said: "I think the commission has to recognize the differences in the platform itself and the characteristics of the technology used, Equitable is not always the same as equal," she said, pointing to the spectrum scarcity issue as one difference between wired and wireless. "It is a physics difference not necessarily a policy difference."
But while she said the FCC should recognize the difference in technologies, Coffey also warned it should not be picking winners and losers through the way it applied its regulations.