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Sprint CTO Blesses a Light Touch of Title II

Sarah Thomas
1/16/2015

Sprint has officially come to terms with Title II -- the FCC regulation that may be applied to reclassify broadband as a utility -- as long it is applied with a light touch.

The carrier's CTO Stephen Bye said in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) "does not believe that a light touch application of Title II, including appropriate forbearance, would harm the continued investment in, and deployment of, mobile broadband services." (See Obama Rocks Broadband World Again and Obama Backs Net Neutrality, Stuns Industry.)

A 1993 amendment to the Telecommunications Act, including Title II, is what allowed Sprint to enter the wireless market in the first place, and Bye says the competition it brought resulted in network investments, innovation and falling prices. He called that a light touch, and said that, "so long as the FCC continues to allow wireless carriers to manage our networks and differentiate our products, Sprint will continue to invest in data networks regardless of whether they are regulated by Title II, Section 706, or some other light touch regulatory regime."


For more on topics like mobile broadband, check out our dedicated mobile content channel here on Light Reading.


So, while its support for Title II is a surprising reversal for the company -- which, like most broadband providers, resisted regulation -- it's also not a ringing endorsement. Bye ends by asking the FCC to not be distracted by debates over Title II, but to focus on competition by taking into account the "unique network management challenges faced by mobile carriers" and the flexibility they need to design products and services.

Verizon Wireless has taken a more aggressive stance, last year threatening to sue the FCC if it enacted Title II rules, and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has said in the past that treating broadband as a utility might force it to stop expanding its fiber network, a threat the carrier later recanted. T-Mobile US Inc. has yet to be as vocal as its competitors. (See Net Neutrality: Latest Proposal Will Make Everybody Unhappy and AT&T GigaPower Awaits Regulatory Resolution and AT&T to FCC: We Haven't Killed Broadband Rollout.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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SachinEE
SachinEE
1/17/2015 | 12:41:12 AM
Re: responses
Sprint argues that it's fine with Title II, provided the rules allow for sensible network management. To hear Sprint tell it, sensible neutrality rules using Title II and forbearance will also have no impact on its investment strategy, despite plenty of industry hand-wringing on this front.

AT&T, Comcast and Verizon have repeatedly tried to claim that Title II-based rules will kill industry investment, even though they've been quietly telling investors Title II really isn't a big deal. 
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
1/16/2015 | 6:46:27 PM
Re: responses
I expect there's some investor management going on here. On the one hand, carriers are telling the government Title II would be catastrophic. On the other hand, they tell investors everything's just going to be great. This may be an attempt to reconcile the two messages. 
KBode
KBode
1/16/2015 | 5:33:09 PM
Re: responses
Can you imagine how annoyed Sprint's friends at the CTIA are right now? Sprint is officially the only wireless carrier supporting Title II.

Really is a clever PR move in that it puts the spotlight on T-Mobile and John Legere's opposition  to Title II despite making a reputation for themselves as a consumer-friendly company.
sarahthomas1011
sarahthomas1011
1/16/2015 | 1:41:16 PM
responses
Even with the caveats, this is a big move for Sprint to endorse this. It's the first telco to do so. The Free Press is already reacting, of course. Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

 "While members of Congress and cable industry lobbyists continue to spread misinformation about Title II, more and more providers are facing up to the fact that the restoration of this light-touch approach wouldn't impact their investments or hamper their ability to compete.

 "Despite the growing chorus of support for Title II, it appears that the staunchest Net Neutrality opponents in Congress remain dead set on killing off this successful framework.

"From early indications, the legislation under consideration by Republicans is a Trojan horse for the telcos. It would legalize harmful discriminatory practices and hamstring the FCC's efforts to protect consumers, promote competition and ensure universal access to critical communications services. Congress should listen to the people and carriers like Sprint instead of continuing to push legislation that would harm the open Internet."

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