Reclassifying Broadband Under Title II Becoming Politically Feasible

from the this-can-happen dept

One of the most annoying things about the net neutrality fight — as we’ve been noting for over a decade — is how silly the net neutrality debate was once it became “partisan.” An issue that, previously, had been a general one about the future of the internet turned into a ridiculous political circus with Republicans (misleadingly) claiming it was about “regulating the internet.” You’d think that the “pro-business party,” as they like to call themselves, would support a policy of an open and free internet that enables so many entrepreneurs and businesses to exist. But, of course, “pro-business” is often code for “pro-big-legacy business.” Either way, the unfortunate news is this has become a stupidly partisan issue, and when that happens, reasoned debate often goes out the window. Given that, one the prevailing narratives in DC circles is that this idea of reclassification of broadband under Title II (basically common carrier status) was “politically impossible,” because it would entail a huge partisan fight in Congress, and apparently no one wants to do that.

This argument, too, is kind of stupid and typical of the Jay Rosen-coined concept of the “Church of the Savvy,” in which the narrative of the politics becomes much more important than the policy itself. In this case, it’s pretty clear that the “fight” is happening no matter what rules the FCC comes out with. The politicians opposed to net neutrality have made it clear that they’ll oppose any rules that the FCC adopts, including its currently proposed, ridiculously weak, rules under Section 706, which leave the door wide open to destroying net neutrality and creating fast lanes.

Given that, it seems like the FCC has a choice on its hands: (A) go with pretend net neutrality and have Republicans fight like hell against it, or (B) go with real net neutrality rules and have Republicans fight like hell against it. It’s difficult to see how choice (A) makes any sense, except that the “savvy” claim has long been that the Democrats didn’t have the political will to really fight back against Republicans over Title II (suggesting that they would be more willing to support Wheeler’s fake neutrality rules).

But, a funny thing has been happening over the last few weeks, indicating that “the savvy” may not be so “savvy” after all. A bunch of Senators have come out strongly in favor of Title II reclassification. And then the big gun came out: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has basically told activists that he’d support the FCC in a political fight with Republicans if the FCC chooses Title II. Reid, unfortunately, did not go all out, and directly urge the FCC to support Title II, but his statement that he would support “any Open Internet rules” that the FCC comes up with is a pretty clear signal to the FCC that the Democratic Leadership in the Senate wouldn’t shy away from supporting Title II, as many had assumed.

It may seem like a small step, but the signalling here is pretty important, because it suggests that the “politically impossible” Title II reclassification is moving towards a political possibility… if the FCC and Chairman Wheeler are actually willing to make that move. In the past, Wheeler has argued that there wasn’t enough political support to go with Title II, and that’s part of the reason he was leaning on the fake solution of Section 706. But as more and more support in Congress is popping up for Title II, the tide is shifting towards it being a political possibility, even if it still very much depends on if Wheeler is willing to take a stand, or fold like so many previous FCC bosses.

Now, if only some on the Republican side stopped listening to the misleading talking points on this, and took the time to understand why this actually matters, and is so important to businesses and innovation…

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Comments on “Reclassifying Broadband Under Title II Becoming Politically Feasible”

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Andyroo says:


Is the problem not that there are people who will support Title II but that Wheeler himself has been paid a lot of money to not support Title II.

the EU is a perfect example of how Title II creates a great environment for the internet, unlike what is happening in the Us where so many people struggle to get even basic internet access.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Problem!!!!????

the EU is a perfect example of how Title II creates a great environment for the internet, unlike what is happening in the Us where so many people struggle to get even basic internet access.

Unfortunately you can’t talk to Republicans about how great something is in Europe, because they’re all smelly Socialists over there, and so however they do something we have to do it differently. 🙁

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

More gov to fix what gov broke in the first place. Why is that the preferred outcome here?

There is no ideal solution. You have a market that is already heavily regulated — in part because it needs to be due to the limits on access and rights of way. Given that situation, it seems perfectly reasonable for the government to try to set up the rules that actually keep them most out of the way and keep the playing field as open as possible for competition.

And, given the current situation, that’s Title II. I didn’t always feel that way, but with the court ruling in February on 706, I’m much more scared about how the FCC will use 706 than I am about how they can use Title II.

Title II, with forbearance, is really less gov than 706, which is a point that so many people are missing.

ThatFatMan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I tend to agree with you on this issue, though I am admittedly under-informed on the issue of Net Neutrality as a whole. But the one thing I can’t help but think about what will happen if the broadband providers get their way is this video:

It’s true now, but it would only get worse I think with the proposed fast lanes (as I understand it).

JohnG (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sure there is. The ideal solution is no government involvement in the internet. That includes infrastructure and delivery.

The internet poses a massive threat to the political class and the legacy media. What better way to gain control over this threat than to make it a (false, IMO) choice between Title II and 706?

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The ideal solution is no government involvement in the internet.

The point is that it is too late for that. It was built on heavily regulated infrastructure with government granted monopolies. It is not feasible to grant more companies the ability to run cables and put up poles to create another high-speed network, and it is prohibitively expensive for them to do it privately (or Google would already have fiber everywhere).

We have taken in a beached whale and nursed it back to health, but if we release it back into the wild it can no longer take care of itself.

It may be that there is technology on the horizon that will eliminate the expensive physical parts of these networks, but until it gets here, we have to rely on wires strung on poles and all of that was built and is maintained by monopolies.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“The ideal solution is no government involvement in the internet.”

Indeed, but to accomplish that there needs to be some other mechanism to promote the public interest. Traditionally, this would be competition in a free market, but no such thing exists in the internet space (or at least not enough to matter). In the absence of that, government involvement is the only other option.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I might agree with you if the infrastructure had been built without the subsidies from government. The barrier to entry due to the necessary infrastructure which was created through those government subsidies is EXACTLY what allows the monopoly to exist and be abused. What we need is government regulation over the infrastructure that creates the situation where you cannot abuse it at the expense of consumers. This happened in Texas with electricity and was fixed by creating a system where one company in each area owns and maintains the infrastructure that then sells the service to multiple retailers at a government set rate which in turn compete in the market for customers and it has worked quite well for quite some time now. The same needs to be done with broadband on a national level.

michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Sure there is. The ideal solution is no government involvement in the internet. That includes infrastructure and delivery.”

You really don’t understand how the internet works, do you?

Do you really think that handing a handful of (soon-to-be merged) corporations an absolute monopoly on the control of the internet — including deciding what sites you can visit, what would appear on those sites, and who can post things — would be a good thing?

Because that’s what you just suggested.

Graduate from high school, learn something about the abuses that a lack of regulation in the 19th century did in nearly every industry in the U.S., and then report back to us. As it is, you are simply part of the problem.

JohnG (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“You really don’t understand how the internet works, do you?”

Yes, I do.

“Because that’s what you just suggested”

I suggested nothing of the sort. Please go back to high school and re-learn reading comprehension, friend.

“a lack of regulation in the 19th century”

Are you referring to the “robber barons” of the time or something else?

fgoodwin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Title II, with forbearance, is really less gov than 706″

You say that like forbearance is a foregone conclusion — it isn’t. Once under Title II, broadband Internet access is subject to many of the same regulations as traditional telephone service, and the FCC has to make an affirmative decision NOT to apply certain regulations.

If history is any guide, the FCC is notoriously slow to forebear from any of it rules, unless Congress specifically spells it out in legislation. Under Genachowski’s “Third Way” proposal, he basically said “Title II but with lots of forbearance — trust us”.

ISPs don’t trust government bureaucrats to stop doing what they are paid to do, which is regulate.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Who benefits from the chaos?

It may be tin-foil hat territory, but when you consider just who has the most to gain from the issue becoming a partisan one, and therefor all but impossible to fix or do anything about, the list of possible sources for that non-partisan to partisan change is pretty small, and even more obvious.

The right words in the right ears, accompanied by a few ‘fundraisers’ and ‘donations’, and it wouldn’t have been difficult at all to set the two parties against each other on the issue, causing political chaos and opening up so very many opportunities because of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m not sure reclassifying is the right way to go , I’ve watched gas bills rise and the oil industry get rich from those rising costs , because in the end the company controls the market and decides it’s cost usually through back room deals and a stock market owned by those same corporations and setting the guide lines and prices go to paid shills , it’s a damn if you do damned if you don’t situation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“Markets can only be rigged with government assistance”

Strange way to look at it. Government looking the other way leads to monopolies.

“Who’s “they”

The subject was government and corporate – duh. Do you think subject likes peons freely discussing their dislike of overlords?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Similarly, functional corporations without the support of government only exist in textbooks. Corporations are a construct of government, and can’t exist without it.

Are you really saying that anarchy is preferable to regulation? I do agree that anarchy appears to prevent monnopolies from forming… but eventually the people tend to get fed up with anarchy and form a government.

Government regulation is a necessity as soon as you have government-created entities; corporations need to be regulated by government, or else they tend to be forced by competition into using profit as their primary driver. As soon as profit becomes the primary driver, you have a pure democracy, where the majority always profits at the expense of the minority.

In the case of the US, that means people who are higher income and live in more densely populated areas profit at the expense of people who are lower income or live in less densely populated areas.

This is why infrastructure is mandated and governed in most places where it actually functions — without governance, the power grid would suffer brown-outs, service loss, and fee spikes. As the Internet becomes infrastructure instead of a “nice to have” service, it is entering this same category.

Sure, the way it’s being done might not be the best, but the difference between the textbook and reality is that reality has to deal with the here-and-now and inertia; you can’t suddenly move from what we’ve got to what would be best; and to head in that direction often results in a lot of short-term damage, which hopefully the people governing the change want to mitigate as much as possible.

Feel free to disagree, but I hope you at least present an argument that holds together better than this one.

JohnG (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

“Are you really saying that anarchy is preferable to regulation?”

Nice strawman. There’s a world of difference between “keeping things regular” and anarchy.

“As soon as profit becomes the primary driver, you have a pure democracy, where the majority always profits at the expense of the minority.”

Your logic doesn’t follow. A company may only profit if “it” (the people who work for the business owner) can convince people to engage in trade. By that very definition there is no exploitation or expense as the transaction is mutually beneficial. A free market is not a zero-sum game, nor is the wealth people accumulate.

“that means people who are higher income and live in more densely populated areas”

Can people not choose where to live? In terms of infrastructure, are you sure it isn’t the people who live in rural areas profiting off the people who live in more densely populated areas by having them subsidize the rural land owner’s infrastructure buildout?

JohnG (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

fair enough… the problem the legacy media and the gov’t has with the internet is that it diminishes their (both entities) power and control because it democratizes information. What better way to gain control of that medium than by doing so under the guise of keeping it “neutral”? This is why no government intervention in the internet is better.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“Markets can only be rigged with government assistance so we’re back to my original point.”

Really? Do you want to think about that and retract it? Because that is probably one of the stupidest arguments I’ve ever heard.

I could name hundreds of situations where a market was rigged without government interference, but i’ll give you a chance to pull your head out of your ass first.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“Markets can only be rigged with government assistance so we’re back to my original point.”

Really? Do you want to think about that and retract it? Because that is probably one of the stupidest arguments I’ve ever heard.

I could name hundreds of situations where a market was rigged without government interference, but i’ll give you a chance to pull your head out of your ass first.

TestPilotDummy says:

Removal of Fascists

The problem is clear when you look at the FCC’s original mission statement.

This(ese) is(are) not the mission statement(s) they have published CURRENTLY TODAY

What authority did they have to regulate (net)works? Zero. They TOOK IT! After they have basically turned the public spectrum into a Corporate owned spectrum.

But did anyone say anything back then? That’s where the FCC (POTUS’s bitch) should have been checkmated and the Original Mission Statement restored, kicking all this owning an ObamaFone is your NEW WORLD ORDER Free Speech/ 1St Amendment Crap.

FCC has in the current spectrum conflicting RF devices with interference because of poor engineering decisions and use of spectrum mostly for financial gain instead of the PUBLIC INTEREST, not to mention the vague time table / foot dragging all along the path to bring commercial broadcasters god damned fucking PUBLIC FILE ‘s onto the web–So the Public can hold them accountable and have that which is not in the public interest’s Frequency allocation/Station ID revoked, not to mention the treason/spying blind eye.

Nothing is going to be fixed until these oath breaking psychopath war mongering thieves are in Ft Leavenworth for TREASON

But everybody is still to busy with this side show Left Right Paradigm crap still. It isn’t until We The People get their fingers burned by this zionist fire that anyone will do anything about it. After all they’re calling veterans, Teaparty, Sovereign Man, TERRORISTS — that makes ya fall under the NDAA — You can be on KILL LIST

So lets get real here.
You want to fix tthe FCC? Take away the POTUS appointee–take away the Left/Right Steering of the FCC.

Give control of current operations of the FCC Board to the PUBLIC. e.g. Public Votes on what spectrum belongs to who and goes where and Engineers hired to work in the PUBLIC INTEREST execute it. Period.

In my opinion though there are bigger problems of TREASON running through USGOV


TestPilotDummy says:

Re: Re: Removal of Fascists

So what you are claiming Chris, is there’s no Constitution or 4th Amendment.

The US Constitution isn’t Crackpot. Neither is the Oath.

In fairness, I jumbled a lot of crap into sentences which should have been broken up. I have third edition Strunk and White, and Elements of Style. However that is MY human flaw, not a flaw of my understanding of the Oath (which I took) and the US Constitution which that oath obligates me to defend.

If I could go back I would break up the Spying/Treason from that sentence. However that doesn’t take away from the problems with the public spectrum, FCC, POTUS, and corporate broadcasters.

Perhaps I don’t understand the EXACT terminology of the word TREASON. How about malfeasance/misfeasance. I don’t really give a CRAP what you want to call it–they belong in Ft Leavenworth Kansas for breaking their oaths.

Look Chris, The FCC regulates Power and Frequency, when spies are setting up all this crap to catch emissions on the spectrum without a warrant — I call that clear cut breaking your OATH. Or are you going to try to say the FCC doesn’t regulate Power and Frequency, instead the spies do.

That’s Horseshit.
Let’s talk Economic Spying.

Further doesn’t make the fact that the original FCC mission statement has long past gone astray, and is in mission creep mode like the IRS, like the banksters, like EPA, like DHS, like on and on and on.

I am a shitty writer (everyone shall agree, and I’ve obviously had a bad day here), but I ain’t no crackpot. I have justified anger, and maybe I am a little shaky trying to get my point across. But that’s it.

Screw your Conspiracy Theorist nonsense.
This unconstitutional crap is a CONSPIRACY.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Removal of Fascists

So what is your point, then? All I really understand is that you are angry (which is understandable), but your anger seems to be making your arguments into a jumble that’s really very difficult to understand. Your comments read very much like a crackpot, particularly when you bring in things like “zionist”, “conspiracy”, and implying that our current situation is entirely due to Obama.

I’m glad you took the term “treason” off the table — that means a very specific thing that don’t apply to anything else you’ve mentioned.

The only really clear point I can get is that you think the FCC has overstepped its mandate. However, what the FCC has the mandate to do is exactly what Congress authorizes the FCC to do. It’s been more than “power and frequency” for a long, long time (for example, the FCC regulates landlines telephone service). I truly understand your reluctance to agree that the FCC should regulate internet infrastructure — that makes me nervous as well — but what alternative is there at this point?

rapnel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Removal of Fascists

I think, and I could be way, way off, that he’s attempting to highlight some level of futility due to the fact that government, media and media delivery are in fact joined at the hip – overtly and covertly. In other words there can be no real neutrality because government has a vested interest in both sustaining itself and controlling (perhaps more accurate, shaping) you and your opinions. Just like media. The secret arms of government want access to everything, period, with little concern for constitutionality once orders have been disseminated. He’s sort of correct in that there is no uncertain level of treason that apparently goes all the way to the top and down again and there has been for years via a fine web of complicity, capital, foreign policy and good old fashioned greed (salted with a good amount of ignorance and stupidity). If you let the enforcers in at any level (corporate and government) then they will invariably seek more enforcement and more means to do so.

IMO, there will never be anything more neutral than right now unless and until all of Title II for carriers, modernized copyright policy “for the progress of science and useful arts” and actively seeking out, creating and implementing much more robust solutions in the areas of decentralization, transparency, p2p and mesh networks (data & transport).

I’m also quite sure that “copyright” is ground zero as it is singularly the largest and most effective wedge being driven between you and progress. Some reconciliation needs to occur between “copy”, “disseminate”, “privacy” and “progress”. Continuously ensuring that someone somewhere can continue to make money doing something they’re used to doing is not progress, it’s an impediment and a blatant corruption of intent.

I would surmise that attempts at outlawing protocols are next.

Power, government power, wants only one-way mass media available to the public, as does big, legacy corporate media. The first order of business should be to rip apart the heads of creation and delivery. I can not see how they can continue to coexist and suckle the teats of the same mother. No progress to be had there, not for humankind at any rate, no way, can’t happen, title II or no title II the NBC/Comcast towers must fall face first into the abyss of separation. Anxiety to follow.

Whatever (profile) says:

opinion only

You’d think that the “pro-business party,” as they like to call themselves, would support a policy of an open and free internet that enables so many entrepreneurs and businesses to exist. But, of course, “pro-business” is often code for “pro-big-legacy business.”

For all their pro business natural, the Republican party at it’s heart is a christian conservative organization. As a result, as much as they are pro-business, they are also pro censorship, pro “do it our way or else”, and have no problems limiting the rights of others to do it. It’s “god is great, follow the bible” mentality.

It’s very hard to get around the basic concepts.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: opinion only

You’ve gotta be kidding. That hasn’t been true since Reagan’s time, when pro-business fiscal conservatives shoved moral conservatives to the sidelines. Today, Republicans cynically use moral principles to rally the base, but any time it conflicts with the Higher Principle of making money, just watch any but the merest pretense of Christian morality fall by the wayside.

Read what the Bible has to say about usury, moneylending, and debt, then look at the Republican position on the whole banking mess.

Read what the Bible has to say about stewardship and accountability, then look at the Republican positions on the environment and on corporate liability.

Read what the Bible has to say about The Prince of Peace, then look at the Republican position on war.

Anyone who thinks the Republican party does anything more than provide lip service to Christian morality is a propaganda victim, pure and simple.

Rick Harnish (profile) says:

Title II and Small Business

Title II will impose regulatory burdens on small ISP businesses that work hard and often with their own investment to bring broadband to areas of the country where the big guys won’t invest.

Title II and a recent FCC Spectrum Change in Proceeding 13-49 are two ongoing disputes with motives to kill off the entrepreneurs that are stimulating rural broadband deployment with NO SUBSIDIES!

Do we really want to kill these small businesses with extreme regulatory burdens and kill off future investment? These two things will cause millions of Americans to lose their current broadband where the only other option is satellite. Expensive and unsatisfactory. The trickle down effect of this will cause rural economy implosion. Without broadband and possibly having to wait for a very long time to get it, will force many rural businesses to close, causing more unemployment, failed contracts, more welfare and more rural to metropolitan population shift.

Government Regulation Continues to

Eliminate Small Businesses.

It has to STOP!

Support the WISPA Petition for Reconsideration by clicking on the url.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Title II and Small Business

Support the WISPA Petition for Reconsideration by clicking on the url.

Imagine that, an ISP lobbying group that’s against Title II classification. Your “small business” line is good, but maybe if you try to use the words “heartland” and “apple pie” it will work even better. Maybe “hard working Americans”. Or you could back up your claims with facts, but of course that’s a lot harder.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Title II and Small Business

What regulatory burden are you talking about? “Treat all traffic equally” is not some huge “burden” to be met. On the contrary, developing technology to violate basic Common Carrier principles is what’s expensive; there’s a reason why only huge ISPs are doing it!

Sorry, but this argument doesn’t pass the laugh test.

fgoodwin (profile) says:

Re: Title II and Small Business

Rick, correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t many small rural telcos file their DSL service offerings in a NECA tariff?

I.e., those small businesses offer broadband under Title II regulation. They are not required to offer broadband this way, they choose to do so. As far as I know, that choice hasn’t lessened their incentives to invest risk capital in their broadband networks (i.e., REA or RUS is still lending them government-subsidized, below market rate money to invest in their networks). I’m not a wireless expert so I can’t speak to how Title II will affect WISP investment.

By they way: there is no URL linking to the WISPA Petition for Reconsideration. But I’d like to read it.

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