Some of the nation’s biggest internet providers want to make sure that, once the Federal Communications Commission votes to deregulate the broadband industry, states won’t be able to set up new regulations to replace them.
Comcast and Verizon have asked telecom regulators to make clear that the FCC’s new policy on net neutrality — which could be put to a vote as early as next month — will preempt state and local regulations that might read differently.
The request marks the industry’s latest step to weaken federal rules that regulate broadband companies like legacy telephone companies.
The FCC should “include a clear, affirmative ruling that expressly confirms the primacy of federal law with respect to [broadband] as an interstate information service,” Comcast said in a recent regulatory filing.
In a white paper released late last month, Verizon also lobbied for preemption, citing moves by about 30 states — “an alarming number” — to adapt to a congressional measure repealing FCC privacy protections for consumers.
At stake are the FCC’s rules that prohibit internet providers from blocking, slowing or giving preferential treatment to some websites at the expense of others. Approved in 2015, the rules were widely supported by advocacy groups who said they were a vital consumer protection. But they were also vehemently opposed by internet providers who said the regulations were illegal and overly burdensome.
The fight revolves around the FCC’s decision to classify internet providers under the law as “common carriers,” the same designation the agency applies to telephone service providers. Under Republican leadership, the FCC now wishes to backtrack on that policy change, seeking to reclassify broadband companies under “information services,” a more lightly regulated designation.
“Allowing every State and locality to chart its own course for regulating broadband is a recipe for disaster,” the company said. “It would impose localized and likely inconsistent burdens on an inherently interstate service.”
John Bergmayer, a senior counsel at the consumer group Public Knowledge, said that FCC rules generally take precedence over state and local rules.
“If the FCC says X, and a state says Not-X, then, the FCC wins,” he said.