Big phone companies challenge FCC's right to reclassify broadband

Proponents of net neutrality, including Free Press, Public Knowledge, Media Access Project, and companies such as Google, Skype, Ebay and Amazon, say the FCC used to consider DSL Internet service a Title II service, so it should be able to return to a similar regulatory regime.

The telecom carriers, who are adamantly against net neutrality rules, dispute that claim. In the letter, they give a thorough history lesson going back to the 1990s, citing obscure orders. The carriers reiterate their argument that reclassifying broadband would "inflict" rules designed for common carrier telephone systems that are far too rigid.

In response to the letter, public interest groups quickly said that the carriers are the misinformed ones, and that the FCC has every right to reclassify to protect the interests of consumers.

"Nobody is talking about regulating the Internet," said Free Press counsel Aparna Sridhar. "We are only talking about minimal government oversight of the dominant communications infrastructure of our era....The FCC has the expert technical and policy judgment as well as legal guidance given to them by the Supreme Court to move to protect consumers."

Harold Feld, legal director for Public Knowledge, said history has shown that the Internet flourished with more regulation on telephone companies--the opposite of what the phone companies say.

"As we have shown in our filings, the carriers are wrong again on the facts, wrong again on the history, wrong on the policy," he said.