Net Neutrality Opponents Make Few New Points in FCC Letter

The major communications service providers have come out against a proposal that the FCC change how it regulates broadband.

The pushback was expected.

As part of the ongoing net neutrality comments process at the FCC, consumer groups Free Press and Public Knowledge have said broadband needs strict government oversight so operators can’t unfairly manage networks or discriminate against users. Free Press and Public Knowledge want the FCC to reclassify broadband from information service, which has a hands-off regulatory approach, to telecommunications service, a more rigorous means of oversight.

This week, AT&T Inc., Qwest Communications International Inc., Verizon Communications and Time Warner Cable all cried foul. Along with supporters including CTIA and USTelecom, the providers jointly wrote that such a switch would comprise an “untenable” legal matter that would “plunge the industry into years of litigation and regulatory chaos.”

The companies also invoked the argument that net neutrality will quash broadband innovation and investment.

Basically, the letter contained little new news. It does serve, though, as additional fodder in the debate between net neutrality advocates and opponents as the FCC explores whether to enshrine open Internet principles as law. Chairman Julius Genachowski late last year said that’s what he wants to do. Before he can hold a vote, though, he must gather public comments.

Still, even if commissioners do agree to regulate net neutrality, that won’t be the last we hear of the matter. Companies such as AT&T and Verizon will sue and net neutrality will get even more tangled up in the courts for months or years – “even more” because an appeals court is considering whether the FCC was out of bounds in 2008 when it punished Comcast Corp. for throttling peer-to-peer traffic. If the judges favor Comcast, any standing the FCC has regarding net neutrality will evaporate.

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