Carriers concerned FCC ‘light touch’ won’t be light enough

Internet providers have shown a mixed reaction to an FCC announcement that it intends to pursue a ‘light touch’ policy on broadband regulation.

In essence, most say they are cautiously in favour of the policy – as long as the touch turns out to be light enough.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski says the agency plans to regulate broadband access along the same lines as telecoms services, but without all the associated pricing and competition controls.

“While still reviewing the implications of the FCC’s legal arguments, Sprint appreciates the FCC’s statement that any regulation it may assert would be through a light regulatory touch,” said Vonya B McCann, Sprint’s senior vice president of government affairs.

Last month, an appeal court ruled that the FCC did not have the right to prevent Comcast from blocking certain high-bandwidth applications, throwing the FCC’s authority over the internet into doubt.

Genachowski had to decide whether to rely on Title I of the Communications Act to preserve the open internet or on full Title II common carrier provisions, which would give the FCC authority over telecommunications services.

“Genachowski’s hybrid approach recognizes the distinction between applications, online data services and media content on the one hand, and essential underlying telecommunications transport services on the other,” said Ed Black, president and CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association.

“By acknowledging that Title II of the Act governs interstate telecommunications, including broadband transmission services sold as Internet access, this move wisely correct a previous misstep and would keep the FCC on solid legal ground to maintain nondiscriminatory access to an open internet.”

He added: “Genachowski understands that heavy-handed regulation can chill innovation.”

But Verizon claims that the decision is on shaky legal ground.

“In enacting the 1996 Telecommunications Act, Congress intentionally excluded Internet services, like broadband internet access, from the scope of Title II’s regulatory burdens. Those regulations were designed for different services delivered by different networks in different times,” said Tom Tauke, executive vice president of public affairs, policy and communications. 

“We believe that the chairman’s stated approach is legally unsupported.  The regulatory and judicial proceedings that will ensue can only bring confusion and delay to the important work of continuing to build the nation’s broadband future.”