Pai Opts For Classifying Broadband From Commercial to Private Service

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As he said he would, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had the Commission release a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Open Internet yeaterday. If passed, the changes proposed by the Chairman would include re-instating the classification of all internet access services, including both fixed and broadband, as information services. That means they’d revert back to being treated as private, rather than commercial services, an FCC official explained to reporters.

In 2015, the internet access services were re-defined as common carrier services, Inside Towers reported. The Chairman said this week the change stifled broadband investment and deployment, especially in low-income urban and rural areas.

The Small Business Administration considers the majority of the some 1,368 wireless telecom carriers to be small because most of them employ less than 1,000 people, according to the NPRM, citing U.S. Census Bureau data from 2012. Pai said smaller ISPs told the agency the re-classification introduced regulatory uncertainty into the broadband rollout, making it harder for them to get funding.   

The FCC also proposes to return authority of policing the privacy practices of ISPs to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC goes after companies for committing “unfair and deceptive trade practices,” according to an FCC official speaking on background. An example would be sharing a consumer’s sensitive information. The FTC “has strong enforcement authorities regardless of what the FCC does.”

The current rules on the books would be enforced until any change is passed. The modifications were controversial before and remain so; the FCC received some four million comments on the issue before the last change in 2015; an agency official acknowledged that given the history of this issue, “it’s highly likely no matter what we do that this will end up in court,” meaning on appeal.

Pai intends to brief members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee on his plans and seek guidance from lawmakers today. Meanwhile, the public is invited to comment on the issue; those are due by July 17, to WC Docket 17-108.

April 28, 2017      

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