SOURCE: Internet Innovation Alliance

Internet Innovation Alliance

September 15, 2014 09:15 ET

IIA Urges FCC to Rely on Section 706 Authority, Reject Calls for Title II Reclassification of Broadband

Says Section 706 Presents the Better Alternative to Preserve the Open Internet, Protect Consumers, and Promote Innovation

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - Sep 15, 2014) - Today, the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) urged the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC") to rely on its Section 706 authority rather than reclassify broadband Internet access services as telecommunications services under Title II of the Communications Act. In its Reply Comments in the Open Internet Proceeding, IIA warned that reclassification would reverse decades of Commission precedent and threaten the Internet ecosystem's continued success and future innovation, likely deterring investment with years of further litigation.

"Section 706 has worked well to protect the open Internet that everyone wants to preserve, while minimizing harm to investment and innovation," commented Bruce Mehlman, founding co-chairman of the IIA. "Section 706 remains viable and effective. By contrast, Title II is an antiquated regulatory framework designed for the era of monopoly telephone service that would undermine today's competitive broadband marketplace and disserve consumers, dissuade entrepreneurs and inject unnecessary regulatory uncertainty threatening future dynamism in the broadband ecosystem."

SECTION 706 PRESENTS A BETTER ALTERNATIVE TO PRESERVE THE OPEN INTERNET, PROTECT CONSUMERS, AND PROMOTE INNOVATION

IIA's filing highlights how, by proceeding under Section 706 authority, the Commission can restore the rules disturbed by the recent Court decision and bring balance to the Internet ecosystem. Under the 2010 rules, access to private capital for investment in broadband networks has grown, and the nation witnessed a period of continued exponential growth in the digital app economy, video over broadband, and VoIP; the surge in tablet computing; and the rise of mobile e-commerce.

Reliance on Section 706 enables proper balance between necessary regulation to advance goals such as consumer protection and the imperative of attracting new investment to broadband to ensure further deployments of ever-faster systems that will support the applications of tomorrow. Only through innovation and continued explosive growth can the Nation meet the ambitious goals set forth in the National Broadband Plan and realize the benefits derived from the 21st century digital economy.

"The FCC already has enough authority under Section 706 to keep the Internet open with high-speed access for consumers and flexibility for entrepreneurs to innovate," IIA Co-Chair Jamal Simmons said. "Reclassifying broadband as a utility is like using a sledgehammer when a screwdriver will suffice. Title II is a blunt instrument that might break the Internet's record of innovation and investment, while Section 706 is a better tool for fixing any problems that arise."

RECLASSIFICATION WOULD DETER INVESTMENT THROUGHOUT THE BROADBAND ECOSYSTEM

IIA notes how Title II was not the primary catalyst that spurred investment that occurred after the enactment of the 1996 Act. The great bulk of investment in the broadband Internet ecosystem following the implementation of the Act -- and unquestionably all of the investment from "edge" and cable companies -- occurred within a competitive and significantly less regulatory environment.

After the dot-com bubble of the late 1990's, IIA highlights how broadband investment climbed steadily only after the Commission began its policy of regulatory forbearance under the 2003 Triennial Review Order. Saddling new regulations on broadband now would deter private investment on which the Internet ecosystem depends.

IIA's filing also points to the European broadband experience as instructive as to why the Commission should resist from experimenting with Title II regulation for broadband networks and services here at home.

"European policies built on extensive, public utility-style regulation and wholesale network unbundling have depressed broadband investment and access to next-generation networks overseas, as fully 82% of U.S. consumers enjoy access to high-speed broadband networks compared to only 54% of European consumers," noted former Congressman Rick Boucher, honorary chairman of the IIA. "Section 706 fortunately offers us an alternative path that will enable the private investment necessary to deploy modern broadband networks -- wireline, wireless, and cable -- and continue the virtuous circle fueled by light-touch regulation of the Internet ecosystem."

Boucher added, "Title II reclassification would not only harm the broadband Internet, but would delay the broadband deployment goals of the Commission."

To read the Internet Innovation Alliance's Reply Comments in full, go to http://internetinnovation.org/files/IIA_Open_Internet_Reply_Comments.pdf.

About The Internet Innovation Alliance

The Internet Innovation Alliance was founded in 2004 and is a broad-based coalition supporting broadband availability and access for all Americans, including underserved and rural communities. It aims to ensure every American, regardless of race, income or geography, has access to this critical tool. The IIA seeks to promote public policies that leverage the power of entrepreneurs and the market to achieve universal broadband availability and adoption.

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