As the period for filing public comments on the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) plans to roll back net neutrality regulations comes to a close, telecommunications companies are submitting their final arguments.
On Monday, the last day to submit comments, firms such as Comcast, AT&T and trade associations representing the telecommunications industry filed statements in support of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal to scrap the net neutrality rules the agency approved in 2015.
“The Commission should avoid subjecting the broadband industry to onerous utility-style regulation under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the 'Act'),” Comcast wrote in the opening of the 161-page comment it filed to the FCC on Monday.
“Such regulation is entirely unnecessary and imposes substantial costs that undermine investment and innovation in the broadband ecosystem and undercut efforts to bridge the digital divide in this country,” the company continued, reciting the industries' primary arguments against net neutrality.
In a statement, AT&T echoed Comcast’s sentiment and also said that it does support an open internet, just not one enforced by FCC regulations.
“AT&T has supported an open internet as well as baseline requirements to ensure an open internet is protected without the regulatory baggage that comes with Title II,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement about its filing. “We continue to support such requirements, and we continue to oppose Title II as an unprecedented regulatory overreach for which there was no economic or marketplace justification.”
Companies have argued that the FCC’s regulations are too strict because of the Title II provision, which grants the agency regulatory oversight of broadband companies. Instead, they would like to see regulatory powers returned to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The telecommunications industry’s critics argue, however, that the FTC is too weak to properly police broadband companies. They say that such companies should be regulated more tightly in the manner of a public utility.
In their comments, telecommunications companies reiterated their claim that they don’t do the things net neutrality rules were designed to protect against — blocking or slowing down certain types of content and websites — and that public utility style regulations aren’t necessary.
“We do not block, throttle, or otherwise interfere with the online activity of our customers, and we are transparent with our customers regarding the performance of our service,” Charter, a broadband provider, wrote in its net neutrality comment to the FCC.
“Moreover, we have adopted these policies voluntarily, as part of our business objective of providing a superior broadband experience to our customers,” it continued.
Telecommunications trade groups like US Telecom and the Telecommunications Industry Association, which represent most of the industry, filed comments with similar arguments.
Telecom is not, however, in total agreement on the issue.
Incompas, a trade association that represents small, emerging internet providers as well as fiber companies and major internet companies such as Facebook and Twitter, argued against Pai’s proposal to scrap net neutrality regulations in its comment to the FCC.
“This proposal turns its back on the historical role of the Commission to protect the public’s ability to connect without permission. “Yet, it is not an unfamiliar paradigm, because at bottom it is a proposal that will lead to an Internet that more closely resembles cable television,” Incompas warned.
The trade association went on to describe cable as more rigid and less in line with consumer desire to “engage content on their terms — when and where they want — rather than by cable television programming executives.”