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US Telecom: FCC's Move Has Global Implications

Agency's chief, Walter McCormick, says reclassifying Internet access as a telecom service could open Pandora's box of international treaty rules.

February 26, 2015

2 Min Read
US Telecom: FCC's Move Has Global Implications

The FCC's decision to reclassify broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service will now subject the Internet to international telecom rules, as governed by the United Nations and the ITU, and could prompt other countries to implement similar regulations, claims the head of the major lobbying organization for telecom companies. (See FCC Adopts Title II Internet Regs for Net Neutrality.)

Walter McCormick, president and CEO of United States Telecom Association (USTelecom) , says his organization will be filing a court appeal as soon as details of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's new rules are made public, claiming the federal government is overstepping its authority in a way that is "unnecessary and unwise."

US Telecom supports Open Internet rules implemented under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, which passed in 1996, but not under Title II, which is part of a communications law passed in 1934 aimed at common carriers. Congress has decided Title II no longer applies to airlines, railroads and interstate trucking firms -- all once thought of as common carriers, McCormick notes. Applying them now to Internet access isn't a sensible approach, he says.

"The Internet has not been subject to the standards and regulations that are set pursuant to international treaty by the ITU because it is not a telecommunications service," McCormick says. "Now that it is a telecommunications service, it is by definition subject to the international treaty governing telecommunications."

Read more about Gigabit Cities and the potential impact of regulation in our Gigabit Cities section here on Light Reading.

What that actually means for the global telecom market -- or whether it means anything at all -- is "one of the big uncertainties" resulting from the FCC's move today. "There are pages and pages of regulations governing telecommunication that have been adopted pursuant to international treaties and standards that are set at global conferences held by the UN-sanctioned organization, the ITU," the US Telecom exec says.

McCormick says he didn't expect there to be an immediate Wall Street response to the new rules, at least until the details are known, but that this move creates a climate of regulatory uncertainty that will "have a chilling effect on investment."

US Telecom believes Congress could have passed bipartisan legislation that would allow the FCC to establish Open Internet rules until Section 706 but that the agency jumped the gun with this move.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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