AT&T to FCC: Reject Heavy-Handed Net Neutrality Regulation

The FCC should not deviate too far from 2010 regulations that were crafted to protect open access to the Internet, AT&T said in a regulatory filing.

In a Net neutrality proceeding that has garnered an unprecedented number of comments at the FCC, AT&T urged the commission to reject a heavy-handed approach to regulation because the telecommunications giant said there is no evidence showing that open access to the Internet is threatened.

“Calls to use this proceeding to impose a host of additional regulatory controls on broadband Internet access providers should be firmly rejected, particularly because the record is devoid of evidence of any actual threat to Internet openness that could possibly warrant heavy-handed regulation,” AT&T wrote in an FCC filing.

AT&T argued the FCC has authority under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to ban so-called paid prioritization in which Internet service providers prioritize certain traffic such as movies in exchange for a premium fee from content providers like Netflix. Some consumer groups worry that without an explicit prohibition on paid prioritization, ISPs such as Comcast and AT&T could limit access to Internet content and services through the creation of fast and slow lanes.

The FCC has authority under the Telecom Act of 1996 to ban paid prioritization, AT&T said, arguing that it would be harder for the commission to justify a similar ban under separate legal authority known as Title II regulation. AT&T and Verizon want the FCC to forbear from regulating Internet services under a utilities regime (Title II) they declare hardly resembles the world today.

The other side of the argument comes from Public Knowledge, a public interest group in Washington, D.C. According to an FCC filing from Public Knowledge, Title II regulation would enable the FCC to withstand a legal challenge.

“In striking down the FCC’s last attempt at net neutrality, the D.C. Circuit made it clear that anti-discrimination protections could only stem from Title II authority,” Public Knowledge campaign manager Sean Meloy stated in a letter to the commission.

Early this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated Net neutrality regulations adopted by the FCC in 2010. New regulations proposed in May by the FCC are very similar to the former ones that were adopted under former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

Under the proposal spearheaded by the current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, broadband providers would be required to disclose their network-management practices to consumers, and fixed high-speed carriers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon would be forbidden from blocking lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices. The FCC also has proposed barring fixed broadband providers from engaging in “commercially unreasonable practices.”

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