Fifth, the approach is familiar and has worked well in an analogous context—wireless communications. In its approach to wireless communications, Congress mandated that the FCC subject wireless communications to the same Title II provisions generally applicable to telecommunications services while also directing that the FCC consider forbearing from the application of many of these provisions to the wireless marketplace. The Commission did significantly forbear, and the telecommunications industry has repeatedly and resoundingly lauded this approach as well-suited to an emerging technology and welcoming to investment and innovation. In short, the proposed approach is already tried and true.
Sixth, this approach would allow the Commission to move forward on broadband initiatives that are vital for global competitiveness and job creation, even as it explores with Congress and stakeholders the possibility of legislative clarification of the Communications Act. The Communications Act as amended in 1996 anticipated that the FCC would have an ongoing duty to protect consumers and promote competition and public safety in connection with broadband communications. Should congressional leaders decide to take up legislation in the future to clarify the statute and the agency’s authority regarding broadband, the agency stands ready to be a resource to Congress as it considers any such legislative measures. In the interim, however, this approach would ensure that key initiatives to address pressing national challenges can move forward.
I will ask my Commission colleagues to join me in soon launching a public process seeking comment on this narrow and tailored approach. The proceeding will seek comment regarding the Title I and Title II options discussed above, will seek input on important questions such as whether wired and wireless broadband access should be treated differently in this context, and will invite new ideas. As we move forward, my focus will be on the best method for restoring the shared understanding of FCC authority that existed before the Comcast decision and for putting in place a solid legal foundation for achieving the policy goals that benefit consumers and our economy in the most effective and least intrusive way.
The state of our economy and recent events are reminders both of the need to be cautious and the necessity of a regulatory backstop to protect the American people. I stand ready to explore all constructive ideas and expect those who engage with us to do so constructively as well. The issues presented by the Comcast decision are a test of whether Washington can work—whether we can avoid straw-man arguments and the descent into hyperbole that too often substitute for genuine engagement.