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."
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