FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced this morning that he will invoke Title II and reclassify consumer broadband access as a telecommunications service, something that is anathema to Internet providers.
As you might expect, the usual rollout of commentary is currently descending in the inboxes of anyone even tangentially related to the issue. I won’t bore you with all of the mess, but a few notes for tone are worthwhile. Keep in mind that the market generally expects large Internet providers to sue over the FCC’s plan. Those firms have said as much, and do not appear to be very good at poker.
First, the asinine: I give you the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Ryan Radia:
This regulation will essentially cause consumers to pay more for less. In addition to imposing a new annual fees on each broadband subscriber, the FCC’s proposal will almost certainly cause Internet providers to invest less in their networks, meaning consumers and internet-based services will see fewer speed and reliability improvements. If Congress doesn’t rein in the FCC, broadband providers will soon look and act like power companies and the old Ma Bell telephone monopoly: stagnant, slow-moving, and anything but innovative.
That sounds bad! Taxes! But here’s the FCC [emphasis: original]:
The Order will not impose, suggest or authorize any new taxes or fees – there will be no automatic Universal Service fees applied and the congressional moratorium on Internet taxation applies to broadband.
So there’s that. To Radia’s second point, Verizon has admitted that reclassification of broadband under Title II will have no impact on how it invests in both wireless and wired connections.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Senator Al Franken, an outspoken advocate for net neutrality, was predictably ecstatic [emphasis: original]:
This is a big victory. It’s is a win for consumers, for small businesses trying to compete with the big guys, and for innovation. It’s welcome news for all of us who have fought to keep the Internet free and open, and I’m so glad that the millions of Americans who spoke out in support of strong net neutrality rules have been heard.
As always, net neutrality is either the fundamental essence of what the Internet was and should be, or it’s something that will axe investment and break the web’s back. As always.
And how about the industry group that nearly every non-ISP tech company* you can name is part of — the Internet Association? I am here to deliver satisfaction:
Internet companies are pleased to hear that Chairman Wheeler intends to enact strong, enforceable, and legally sustainable net neutrality rules that include bright-line rules that ban paid prioritization, blocking, and discrimination online. The details and implementation of the proposal matter, and we look forward to seeing the text of the order to ensure that a free and open Internet is fully protected. The Internet Association remains results oriented, and it is essential that the end result protect the user experience as a first priority.
We thank Chairman Wheeler for including equal treatment of wireless and fixed broadband connections in his proposal. There is only one Internet, and users expect that they be able to access an uncensored Internet regardless of how they connect. It is also important that broadband gatekeepers not use interconnection as a chokepoint to thwart net neutrality protections by degrading consumer access and harming online services.
In short, everyone is saying precisely what you thought they would say if the FCC went with Title II. Surprise!
*AOL, which owns TechCrunch, is a member, as well.