Democrats continue pre-midterm push for Internet regulation


By Josh Peterson |

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With several weeks left before the November midterm elections, yet another Democratic member of the House is offering ideas to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on how the government should police Internet traffic.

HELP ME: Net neutrality advocates have a friend in U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., who wanted to help them rebrand a confusing tech policy issue. She has since called for selective regulation of the Internet.

California Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo sent a letter to Wheeler on Wednesday, following up on remarks she made in September, that called for a “light touch” regulatory approach to broadband services under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934; the commission would oversee broadband services under selective portions of Title II.

“Specifically, Eshoo believes open Internet rules based on a ‘light-touch’ Title II approach—that is, forbearing certain sections of Title II—should apply to both fixed and mobile broadband services and must prevent broadband providers from engaging in blocking of lawful Internet traffic, paid prioritization and throttling,” Eshoo’s office said in a statement.

While supporters of net neutrality view regulation as a way to protect free speech and innovation, critics have said that overseeing broadband services under Title II would bring the networks under an outdated telephone style regulatory regime inappropriate for how Internet technologies actually work.

Eshoo, who is expected to win re-election for her district, is vying for the top Democratic seat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, now held by outgoing California Democrat Rep. Henry Waxman.

By contrast, Waxman offered his own proposal — which received Republican and industry analyst criticism — to Wheeler at the beginning of October. It calls for strong net neutrality protections in the form of a so-called “hybrid” regulation between Title II and net neutrality protections under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Waxman’s press office at the Energy and Commerce Committee did not respond to a request for comment.

Telecom analyst Scott Cleland blasted the plan in a blog post as “unlawful,” saying Congress created “mutually exclusive definitions for information services,” where broadband is now regulated, “and telecommunications services in the 1996 Telecom Act.”

“Implementing the Waxman proposal would be a unilateral de facto FCC Communications Act Update by the FCC – sans Congress,” wrote Cleland, founder and president of Precursor LLC, a consultancy to Fortune 500 companies, including several Internet service providers.

Cleland, in an email response to, said, “A hybrid approach is a misnomer.”

“It’s either telecommunications or it is not,” he said. “It’s a binary choice.”

The FCC is expected to make a decision on its net neutrality rules, which received nearly 5 million public comments over the summer months, in December.

Contact Josh Peterson at Follow Josh on Twitter at @jdpeterson