The most powerful Democrat in the House is urging regulators to oversee broadband providers more closely in an effort to preserve an open Internet.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission Monday that Internet service providers should be reclassified under Title II of the Communications Act — a step toward stronger regulations that would allow the FCC to more easily prohibit attempts by ISPs to charge other businesses for smoother, faster access to consumers.
"I oppose special Internet fast lanes," wrote Pelosi. "I believe the FCC should follow the court's guidance and reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II."
With the letter, Pelosi joins a growing chorus of lawmakers who've leapt on the Title II bandwagon, including Sens. Al Franken and Ed Markey as well as Reps. Anna Eshoo and Henry Waxman. Net neutrality lawyer Marvin Ammori has a running count of supportive members on his blog.
In January, a federal court struck down the agency's existing net neutrality rules, saying that it had tried to apply Title II-style regulation on businesses that the FCC had previously said were classified under Title I. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler read the opinion as an "invitation" to wield another Title I authority — known as Section 706 — more strongly. Under his current plan, Internet providers and companies would be allowed to strike commercial deals with one another so long as they passed a "reasonableness" test. While Wheeler could decide to opt for Title II, analysts say it would be politically controversial.
Importantly, Pelosi also weighed in on two other debates swirling around the net neutrality discussion. First, she argued that net neutrality rules should apply to wireless carriers. The old rules struck down in January exempted wireless providers, but the FCC has asked the public whether the new rules it's drawing up should work the same way.
Second, Pelosi said she believes net neutrality rules should apply to the Internet backbone, where disputes between Netflix and Comcast have drawn the economics of the Internet into the public eye. Title II, said Pelosi, would allow the FCC to ensure that Web-based phone and video calls "and other data will reach their destination without interference." While that passage could be construed as referring to the last-mile portion of an ISP's network, a House staffer confirmed that she was addressing the backbone issue.