Verizon: Reclassifying broadband would cause 'years of court battles'

The FCC will wind up in court if it attempts to reclassify broadband as a way to apply net neutrality regulations to the Internet, Verizon's top lobbyist said in an interview on C-SPAN this week.

"Saying it is unwise to classify broadband as a Title II service is an understatement," said Tom Tauke, Verizon's executive vice president for public affairs, policy and communications.

"We would end up with years of court battles," he said during my interview with him for C-SPAN's The Communicators program, which airs Saturday.

The FCC is waiting on a court decision that will determine whether or not it had the authority to order Comcast to stop throttling Internet traffic to a file-sharing Web site in 2008.

If the court rules that the FCC does not have jurisdiction to impose so-called net neutrality regulations under the current Title I classification of broadband, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has indicated he will consider reclassifying broadband as a Title II communications service, allowing the agency to assert more authority over it.

"They'd only be doing this out of desperation," Tauke said of trying to "shoehorn" broadband into a Title II regulatory framework. "This is when Congress is supposed to act. We don't have a segment of the communications statute that applies to (the broadband) industry."

In a high-profile speech last week, Tauke, a former House Republican, called on Congress to sort out the jurisdiction question faced the by the FCC. Telecom laws established in 1996 no longer reflect the current industry, he said, and need to be overhauled.

"The FCC is constrained, some might even say hamstrung, by the statute," he said.  "The FCC is really facing a tough task....they're trying to work with a statute that isn't structured for this area."

Current telecommunications laws govern each sector of the industry differently--so cable companies follow different rules than wireless companies and traditional phone companies. But now that "everyone is playing in everyone else's sandboxes," Congress needs to "take the lead" in revamping how the FCC should regulate the rapidly changing industry, Tauke said.