Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) introduced legislation that would explicitly bar the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from reclassifying broadband under Title II of the Communications Act.
The FCC is in the process of establishing a new regulatory framework for network neutrality. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has consistently threatened to reclassify broadband as a communications service (Title II) should communications service providers fail to accede to whatever the new rules are.
Latta said his legislation is intended “to ensure the Internet remains open and free from government interference.”
“In light of the FCC initiating yet another attempt to regulate the Internet, upending long-standing precedent and imposing monopoly-era telephone rules and obligations on the 21st Century broadband marketplace, Congress must take action to put an end to this misguided regulatory proposal,” said Latta on his web site.
“At a time when the Internet economy is thriving and driving robust productivity and economic growth, it is reckless to suggest, let alone adopt, policies that threaten its success. Reclassification would heap 80 years of regulatory baggage on broadband providers, restricting their flexibility to innovate and placing them at the mercy of a government agency. These businesses thrive on dynamism and the ability to evolve quickly to shifting market and consumer forces. Subjecting them to bureaucratic red tape won’t promote innovation, consumer welfare or the economy, and I encourage my House colleagues to support this legislation, so we can foster continued innovation and investment within the broadband marketplace.
As a practical matter, the bill is a promise that Title II reclassification would be resisted, and few want to resist that more than the leading ISPs in the U.S. – cable operators.
The NCTA quickly issued a statement praising Latta’s bill: “Since the late 1990's, policymakers and regulators have established a bipartisan consensus that a light regulatory touch provides the best path for ensuring that the Internet will become an engine of economic growth and social prosperity. We support the efforts of Vice Chairman Latta to codify current policy and to ensure that the Internet continues to grow and remains open and free from the burdens of outdated, public utility regulation.”
“Light regulatory touch” has become an NCTA mantra, but in his remarks at the recent Cable Show, Wheeler told cable operators that the regulatory constraints they are currently subject to are not just “light” – they’re “barely discernible.”