FCC's Republicans: New broadband rules would ruin credibility, have global impact

The FCC's two Republican members on Thursday said Chairman Julius Genachowski's broad proposal to regulate broadband "risks the credibility" of the commission at risk of causing "serious ramifications across the globe."

Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Baker spared not a kind word for Genachowski, who announced earlier in the day the FCC would apply some rules that govern phone companies to broadband providers in part to institute net neutrality rules.

They said that proposal "is disappointing and deeply concerns us," in part because it defies the advice of investors and industry experts who implored the FCC to handle the matter differently.

"It is neither a light-touch approach, nor a third way. Instead, it is a stark departure from the long-established bipartisan framework for addressing broadband regulation that has led to billions in investment and untold consumer opportunities," the commissioners said. "It also poses serious ramifications across the globe."

"After several government investigations, no evidence of systemic failure in the broadband market has been presented to justify this new, more onerous regulatory regime," McDowell and Baker continued. "Additionally, without a specific mandate from Congress, the appellate courts are likely to hand the Commission another stinging rebuke for attempting to shatter the boundaries of its statutory authority. This proposal risks the credibility of our institution: Government agencies simply cannot create new legal powers beyond those granted by Congress."

The FCC's new legal framework, introduced Thursday, addresses a federal court ruling in April that found the FCC only had chief jurisdiction over Title II, or "telecommunications services," and did not even have "ancillary" authority over Title I, or "information services," which includes broadband.


The decision invalidated the FCC's attempt to sanction Comcast for blocking its users' access to Bit Torrent, a file-sharing service, and called into question the commission's ability to regulate any broadband providers.

The new rules rely on a procedure called "forbearance" to pick and choose aspects of long-standing phone company rules to impose on broadband providers. That approach, Genachowski said, would be far nimbler than the more heavy-handed, full reclassification some net neutrality supporters sought.

However, McDowell and Baker disagreed, and they stressed in their statement Thursday that the proposal would harm the industry, restrict infrastructure growth and result in lost jobs. They ultimately concluded, tersely, "This dramatic step to regulate the Internet is unnecessary."