Federal regulators should think carefully about attacking zero-rating plans, USTelecom President Walter McCormick said on C-SPAN’s Communicators program. The plans, which give consumers a cost break in exchange for sponsored ads, are facing a challenge from those who believe they violate net neutrality rules.
Public interest should be the guidepost in deciding how to treat the plans, McCormick said, noting that they are popular with consumers. The issue comes down to who bears the cost of the Internet, he said.
“Why should a wealthy social elite who has multiple HD televisions and is simultaneously streaming three channels of HD to their home be subsidized by a low income user who wants e-mail to allow their children to do homework and be able to have healthcare functions?" McCormick said.
Public Knowledge is concerned the plans will create a two-tiered system, said Vice President Christopher Lewis, who also appeared on the program in an interview with C-SPAN host Peter Slen and Politico technology correspondent Alex Byers.
McCormick said he’s “optimistic” the court will find the Federal Communications Commission erred in reclassifying broadband Internet access service under Title II common carrier regulation. The court understood nobody is opposed to open Internet principles. Instead, the court focused on how the FCC went about it creating the rules.
The 1996 Telecom Act “is very clear” about the definition of broadband Internet access service, McCormick said. “The FCC, for well over a decade, said the services were information, not telecommunciations services,” he said. “The FCC cannot simply call something that was one thing, information services, and suddenly simply decide we’re going to call that another thing.”
Courts tend to look at the plain meaning of the statute, he said.