Congressmen Push Back on Broadband Reclassification Plan

The Federal Communications Commission’s gambit to reclassify broadband service as the regulatory equivalent of a phone service drew fire Friday (May 28) from a group of 171 House Republicans. In a letter to FCC Chair Julius Genachowski, the members said any changes to the Communications Act are “a matter best left to Congress.”

The letter comes the day after the FCC announced a notice of inquiry on the FCC’s proposal to reclassify broadband service using an executive workaround after the D.C. Circuit Court ruled in the Comcast-BitTorrent case that the FCC didn’t have the authority to reclassify broadband.

“The FCC concluded on a number of occasions, under both Democrat- and Republican-led Commissions, that broadband is not a telecommunications service but an information service outside the reach of the Title II common carrier rules [of the Communications Act],” the lawmakers wrote, pointing out that current legislative posture has produced 200 million broadband subscribers in the last 10 years.

Earlier this week, several Democratic Congressional members announced they have started a process to update the Communications Act. Separately, about 70 Congressional leaders sent a letter to the FCC, expressing serious concerns about the FCC’s attempt to reclassify the Internet, insisting the authority lies with Congress, not the FCC.

Not all lawmakers oppose the FCC’s broadband classification workaround. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Ann Eshoo (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Genachowski praising his proposal.