House Communications Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore) says that if the Federal Communications Commission's network neutrality rules are overturned by the courts the commission has a "GPS locator that says 'let's go over hear to Title II and we'll regulate the Internet as a common carrier."
He also argues that if the FCC did go the Title II route, it could be planting "IED's" in the form of state regulators who
feel authorized to follow suit.
That was in an interview for C-SPAN's Communicators series over the weekend, where Walden was talking about his and other Republicans' efforts to invalidate the rules in the Congress and prevent the FCC from doing anything similar down the line.
When it was pointed out that AT&T and cable operators did not argue against the rules at a hearing last week on the blocking resolution (which ultimately passed in the subcommittee) Walden pointed out that those industry players had negotiated the compromise regs, but only as the lesser of two evils and that reading between the lines at their testimony made that clear.
He also pointed out that he did not work for the industry but for the people and the best public policy.
He said if the FCC were not going to try to reopen Title II as a backstop, why wouldn't the FCC close the proceeding at which that proposal, among others, was made. "I can say the FCC engaged in rather bullying tactics," Walden said, citing the "voluntary" side agreements (he made quote signs with his hands") in mergers that he said the companies involved were never going to speak publicly about--obviously the most recent being the Comcast/NBCU agreements, including to abide by network neutrality rules even if they were thrown out by the courts, that Walden and other Republicans have criticized.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski has countered in a letter to Republicans that one of the reasons to keep Title II open was to build a record for the Communications Act overhaul that both Congress and industry have indicated was necessary.
Walden said he opposed the FCC rules because the FCC was picking winners and losers on the Internet. He says that, the way he sees it, providers of the service would now be regulated, while it you were "a rider on the pipe, you're not."
He said he was not picking on Netflix (he subscribes) or Google (Google has a data center in his district), but he said he was looking at this from a policy perspective. He pointed out that if backbone providers have to increase capacity and not get a rate of return on it from those "riders" who are dramatically increasing their usage, not having that demand connected up with a payment structure could be problematic.
Level III in its dispute with Comcast over payments for handling that increased Netflix demand argues it is a neutrality issue because those payments could be a way to discriminate against that content delivery over content co-owned by the network.
He also said he was concerned that if the FCC went the Title II route, some state regulators would follow it. "They
potentially open the door for state regulation by doing this... And there are some state regulators that might go, 'Hmm, you mean I can start regulating the Internet.... I think there are some IED's out there. I think it is important to at least have the discussion and get people thinking that it is more than just some light-touch regulation that should be because those that got put in a corner said we're OK with it."
Asked why the committee was spending time on a blocking resolution that has slim chance to get past the Senate or the President when there are other pressing issues -- universal service reform, spectrum, emergency communications -- Walden said: "We don't live in a dictatorship. The president doesn't just get to tell the House what it is going to do or not do...I actually think it is an issue the public cares about and we have an obligation to pursue." He also said there would be plenty of time to deal with those issues, and he plans to. "We're going to run a very aggressive set of hearings."