Walden: FCC Title II Move Would Disrupt Relationship With Congress

Communications Subcommittee to Hold Feb. 5 Hearing on Internet Regulation, International Issues
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If the FCC were to try to classify Internet access service under title II common carrier regs, it would be a "major disruption in the relationship between Congress and the FCC," House Communications Subcommittee Greg Walden (R-Ore.) warned Wednesday. "I hope they would not proceed down that path."

Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Wednesday, Walden was responding to a question about what the FCC would do if a federal court overturned the FCC's current open Internet rules. While the FCC did not pursue Title II classification in that compromise order, the docket remains open and Walden, along with a number of other Republicans and industry execs, believe that is so it remains an option if the court rules in favor of Verizon's challenge to the rules.

He said for the FCC to classify the Internet as a common carrier would open the door for states to do the same thing.

On Tuesday, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the subcommittee, said that if the court were to overturn the rules, she would be ready with a bill "clarifying" that the FCC had authority to enforce an open Internet.

Walden said Wednesday no bill to give the FCC power to regulate the Internet would come out "on his watch." He said that was part of the problem the country was having at the December ITU telecom treaty conference in Dubai with international efforts to regulate the Internet. He talked about others pointing to the FCC's net neutrality rules as an example of the U.S. getting involved "at some level" of managing and regulating the Internet.

On that subject, Walden said that the subcommittee would hold a joint hearing Feb. 5 with the Terrorist and Trade Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs on Internet regulation in the wake of that conference -- the U.S. declined to sign on to the treaty due to Internet-related language.

That will be the subcommittee's first hearing of the new Congress, he said, likely followed by ones on the new FirstNet interoperable broadband emergency network being funded by broadcaster incentive auction proceeds. He said an auction oversight hearing, likely dealing at least in part with guard bands, would follow sometime during the reply comment period on the FCC's framework for those auctions. Comments are due Friday, Jan. 25, with replies due mid-March.

Walden said the subcommittee would continue to look at tech issues, broadband subsidies, and video distribution, though he deferred on a question about retrans at the end of the news conference as he hastened to cast a floor vote.