Tech group finds firm legal footing for reclassifying Web

A trade group representing major technology companies said the Federal Communications Commission would be on firm legal footing if it reclassified the Internet as a public utility. 

The Internet Association said changes in how the Internet is viewed and a court decision last year striking down previous open Internet rules give the FCC justification to make the change, which would allow the commission to enforce stricter regulation. 

The group — which represents Netflix, Google, Amazon, Yahoo and many more firms — said the commission should avoid enforcing all but a handful of sections of the authority that comes with reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.  

"The undersigned believe that of the 48 sections of the Title II, only a few may need be applied to broadband Internet access service to preserve an open Internet," the group's chief executive, Michael Beckerman, said Tuesday in a filing with the FCC

The association said reclassification would be justified because consumers see the Internet today as a "gateway for accessing content" rather than an "integrated part of a bundle of information services." New rules are justified because it would fix holes left in the FCC's authority to protect online consumers after the courts "twice undercut that Commission's effort to do so,” the group said. 

The Internet Association said only three sections of the updated authority should apply — Sections 201, 202 and 208. 

Those deal with prohibiting service providers from "unjust or unreasonable discrimination" and outline a mechanism to file complaints with the FCC. 

The FCC in February is slated to vote on updated net neutrality rules meant to prevent Internet service providers from blocking or slowing traffic to any website, while also banning companies from negotiating deals for faster service. 

President Obama and other advocates have urged the commission to reclassify the Internet as a utility, arguing it is the only way to prohibit "fast lanes." Obama and others have also urged the commission to avoid enforcing many of the regulations that come with reclassification. 

The Internet Association previously applauded President Obama's recommendations. 

The FCC has not released its updated proposal. And service providers and Republicans have pushed hard against reclassification, threatening litigation over the new rules. 

The commission is currently updating the rules because an appeals court struck them down last January, the second time in four years.