Should broadband be a regulated public utility, like electricity? Some think so, but not surprisingly, makers of broadband equipment do not. Thirty-three broadband equipment manufacturers, including Cisco Systems, IBM and Intel, told the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) it should resist calls to reclassify broadband as a regulated public utility as a way to enact strong net neutrality rules.
In a letter submitted Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the equipment makers maintained that reclassifying broadband as a regulated common-carrier service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act would threaten to remove incentives to invest in broadband growth.
"Because Title II allows for so little flexibility and innovation, it would undercut substantially the broadband providers’ incentives to make the investments necessary to fund network deployments and upgrades," according to the letter.
The equipment makers, some of whom have previously spoken out against broadband reclassification, are all members of either the Telecommunications Industry Association or the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.
In the letter, the coalition of companies said that reclassifying broadband as a regulated common carrier would hurt the U.S. economy and needlessly create unnecessary obstacles to broadband deployment. The companies said that shifting from a lighter regulatory approach -- which the companies classified as "an unqualified success and the basis for billions of dollars in investments" -- to the more structured parameters of Title II would disrupt the broadband marketplace.
"Resources that would normally be spent on building and improving infrastructure would instead be spent complying with burdensome regulatory obligations and uncertainty regarding future profitability would deter additional private investments, according to the letter.
Given the possible necessity of new broadband regulations by the FCC, the equipment makers said they would prefer to see the commission use as its regulatory authority Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, which gives the agency responsibility for timely broadband deployment. FCC chair Tom Wheeler has gone on record as agreeing with equipment makers that the Section 706 approach would be appropriate.
Plans to Protest
Advocacy groups favoring public transparency, along with companies like Netflix and thousands of citizens, have called on the FCC to reclassify broadband as a public utility. Wheeler’s proposal to pass new net neutrality rules that would let broadband providers use "commercially reasonable" methods to manage network traffic have come under fire from the public.
That proposal would allow broadband providers to selectively degrade some Internet traffic, including video traffic that competes with cable TV services sold by many broadband providers.
The letter came on the heels of a letter sent to the FCC Monday by House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who urged the commission to reclassify broadband under Title II. "I oppose special Internet fast lanes, only open to those firms large enough to pay big money or fraught enough to give up big stakes in their company," she said.
Meanwhile, dozens of sites including Netflix, Reddit, Imgur, Etsy, and Foursquare, are planning to participate in a symbolic "Internet slowdown" in support of net neutrality on September 10. The day-long, online demonstration -- during which participating Web sites will display a message with an endlessly spinning “site loading” icon -- is scheduled to come five days ahead of the FCC's public comment deadline on the issue.
Posted: 2014-09-11 @ 10:44am PT
The FCC is the agency writing the rules, so why send a letter to the Dept. of Commerce? If they hope to enlist Obama's support, the FCC is an independent agency and does not answer to the President.
Posted: 2014-09-10 @ 10:41am PT
It's all well and good if you are the one making money off of the predatory business practices that prevail in the Broadband industry, but if you are the one paying more and more for less and less (or no service), it's a completely different ball game. Get Time Warner, Comcast, AT&T, Verizon (the list goes on and on) to offer an internet service that's not rife with "pork" surcharges, customer/support service that is abysmal almost criminal, constant rate hikes and flat out false advertising and failure to deliver on "contracted" promises. Then, maybe we wouldn't be having this discussion and the equipment makers could innovate because a public is buying goods and services that depend on their innovation and products.