WASHINGTON D.C. — This morning, President Obama called on the FCC to “reclassify” broadband under Title II of the Communications Act so it can ban all paid prioritization. TechFreedom President Berin Szoka responded as follows:
Title II means the very opposite of net neutrality. Even under Title II, the FCC can’t legally ban all paid prioritization — only regulate it to make sure that prices are just and reasonable. In fact, Title II would authorize broadband providers to charge some price to content and service providers for carrying their traffic to users — and there’s no precedent for the FCC from “forbearing” from this requirement in a market that it claims is a “terminating access monopoly.” Title II would raise a host of other problems, including choking broadband competition, inviting regulation of the rest of the Internet and validating Russia and China’s push to have the International Telecommunications Union regulate the Internet as a telecom service.
Obama’s statement is simply a cynical political ploy, a way of playing to activists on the radical Left who have built mailing lists and a political movement on the most absolutist conception of net neutrality. Forbearance, the process by which many claim the FCC could make Title II palatable, will only be politicized even further by Obama’s inflammatory rhetoric.
This is simply the opening salvo of the legislative fight over net neutrality that has been brewing for nearly a decade. No-blocking and transparency rules are uncontroversial: back in 2006, 215 House Republicans voted for them as part of badly-overdue update to the Communications Act. The debate has always been about two questions. First, how to craft a non-discrimination rule that bans anti-competitive behavior — but doesn’t ultimately harm consumers? That means policing paid prioritization under flexible rules, not banning it. Second, how to prevent net neutrality from leading to larger regulation of the Internet? That means barring Title II, clarifying that Section 706 isn’t a grant of authority, and giving the FCC narrow authority to deal with truly harmful broadband practices.
A legislative deal is possible, but both the President and Congressional Republicans would have to get beyond soundbites and start talking substance. President Obama’s bizarre insistence that four million Americans supported Title II, when nearly a quarter of the comments filed with the FCC actually opposed Title II, doesn’t augur well for the negotiating process. A more pragmatic president would have used this opportunity to work with Republicans and the dozens of Congressional Democrats who’ve opposed Title II on a legislative deal — the way that Clinton and Gingrich resolved welfare reform and the key debates of their day.
- DontBreakThe.Net, TechFreedom-led grassroots, coalition effort against Title II
- There’s No Middle Ground on Title II, Berin Szoka
- Tech Policy Offers Republicans Best Opportunity to Lead, Berin Szoka
- Coalition letter urging FCC Chairman Wheeler to maintain the bipartisan consensus against Title II
- Highlights from legal and policy comments filed by TechFreedom and the International Center for Law & Economics on net neutrality, and our reply comments
- “No, Title II Doesn’t Ban Prioritization OR Mandate Free Interconnection,” Berin Szoka
TechFreedom is a non-profit, non-partisan technology policy think tank. We work to chart a path forward for policymakers towards a bright future where technology enhances freedom, and freedom enhances technology.