Equipment Makers: Don’t Reclassify Broadband as Utility

Should broadband be a regulated public utility, like electricity? Some think so, but not surprisingly, makers of broadband equipment do not. Thirty-three broadband equipment manufacturers, including Cisco Systems, IBM and Intel, told the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) it should resist calls to reclassify broadband as a regulated public utility as a way to enact strong net neutrality rules.

In a letter submitted Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the equipment makers maintained that reclassifying broadband as a regulated common-carrier service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act would threaten to remove incentives to invest in broadband growth.

"Because Title II allows for so little flexibility and innovation, it would undercut substantially the broadband providersEU incentives to make the investments necessary to fund network deployments and upgrades," according to the letter.

The equipment makers, some of whom have previously spoken out against broadband reclassification, are all members of either the Telecommunications Industry Association or the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

Unnecessary Obstacles?

In the letter, the coalition of companies said that reclassifying broadband as a regulated common carrier would hurt the U.S. economy and needlessly create unnecessary obstacles to broadband deployment. The companies said that shifting from a lighter regulatory approach -- which the companies classified as "an unqualified success and the basis for billions of dollars in investments" -- to the more structured parameters of Title II would disrupt the broadband marketplace.

"Resources that would normally be spent on building and improving infrastructure would instead be spent complying with burdensome regulatory obligations and uncertainty regarding future profitability would deter additional private investments, according to the letter.

Given the possible necessity of new broadband regulations by the FCC, the equipment makers said they would prefer to see the commission use as its regulatory authority Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, which gives the agency responsibility...

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