Rural Telecoms Ask FCC To Prevent State Unwinding of Title I Reclassification

Say that is key to closing digital divide

As FCC Chairman Ajit Pai prepares to circulate an item reversing the Title II common carrier classification of ISPs, expected late next week, a group of rural members of USTelecom has asked the FCC to make sure it prevents states and localities from trying to undo that good work via their own laws and regs.

The FCC voted last May, under Pai, to propose reclassifying ISPs as information services not subject to common carrier mandatory access regulations.

Related: Franken: Edge Providers Need Net Neutrality Rules

ISPs have been suggesting the FCC will also need to preempt attempts by some states to restore the Title II classification piecemeal.

In a letter to Pai and the other commissioners Friday, the groups said "Returning broadband service to the Title I light-touch framework that provided the foundation for the growth and success of the broadband-enabled Internet is essential to getting and keeping communities connected."

But it signaled that growth and success depends on a "common sense federal framework" for "shielding" consumers from "divergent and burdensome state and local requirements" that would be roadblocks on the bridge to digital unity.

"[B]ecause the Commission has repeatedly held that broadband is jurisdictionally–and self-evidently–an interstate service, it is important that states and localities not be allowed to impose common carrier-like regulations, including economic regulations, on broadband providers," they wrote. "Clarity from the Commission on this point is necessary to ensure providers are not burdened with multiple, and possibly conflicting, state and local requirements and Constitutional-protected interstate commerce and competition can continue to thrive across our great nation."