Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai today gave his assessment on where the FCC may go on broadband regulation should the United States Court of Appeals-DC Circuit decide to uphold the FCC’s net neutrality rules issued back in December 2010. Here is an excerpt from his opening remarks before the Phoenix Center :
“On a more serious note, I would like to spend a few minutes this morning previewing the
year ahead in broadband policy. I believe that 2013 will be a watershed year. And the most
important action probably will not occur either at the FCC or on Capitol Hill. Instead, it will
take place in the federal courthouse about a mile away on Constitution Avenue. At some point
next year, the D.C. Circuit likely will decide the fate of the Commission’s 2010 net neutrality
order. Whatever the court’s decision, the consequences are likely to be profound.
Should the D.C. Circuit uphold the FCC’s order, I would expect to see revitalized efforts
to expand the Commission’s regulation of the Internet. In particular, I would not be surprised if
the FCC looked into whether we should stiffen our oversight of the network management
practices of wireless broadband providers and whether we should begin to regulate usage-based
pricing. With a court victory under the Commission’s belt, I believe that the net neutrality order
would be the first step, not the last, on our regulatory path.
I expect that a court victory also would result in more calls to enforce the FCC’s net
neutrality rules. To date, we’ve received few complaints that these rules have been violated, and
we’ve done little with any that have been filed. But if the regulations are upheld, the agency
could well receive more complaints alleging violations and it could spring into action
adjudicating them. Uncertainty over how the FCC would resolve these complaints could persist
for some time.
Now let’s look at the opposite (and perhaps more likely) scenario. What would happen if
the D.C. Circuit decides that the FCC lacked the authority to adopt the net neutrality order? The
big question confronting the Commission would be this: whether to abandon the drive to regulate
network management practices or instead to sidestep the court’s decision by reclassifying
broadband as a Title II service.
For what it’s worth, I have already made my view on this matter clear. Under no
circumstance will I support Title II reclassification. I am convinced that grafting creaky,
burdensome common carrier regulations onto the Internet would dramatically slow broadband
deployment, reduce infrastructure investment, frustrate innovation, hamper job creation, and
diminish economic growth.”
Investors, naturally, should keep their fingers crossed that the court does not uphold net neutrality rules thus giving the FCC authority to apply common carrier treatment to broadband providers. The just and reasonable standard when it comes to pricing and to whom service can be provided a priori would see carrier costs of service increase with pressure from the FCC on pricing. Not only would grass roots advocates scream about justifiable price increases implemented to cover compliance the costs, advocates would press for additional hearings on network management practices.
Based on the court’s rejection in Comcast to treat broadband as a Title II service, I do believe that Verizon should be successful with its opposition before the DC Circuit to the FCC’s net neutrality rules. I would have to conduct a more thorough analysis to draw a definitive conclusion.