A former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee with jurisdiction over telecommunications policy contended Tuesday that a legislative overhaul of communications law would end up as collateral damage if the Federal Communications Commission reclassifies broadband as a common carrier under Title II of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
The question of whether the agency should reclassify broadband under Title II is a major point of contention in the policy debate surrounding net neutrality.
Saying that he was “stating the obvious when I say this,” former Virginia Democratic House member Rick Boucher at a panel event hosted by the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies said that “Congress, in the event that reclassification occurs, can pretty much put on the shelf any notion of passing a telecom reform.” He cited a “highly partisan debate” about net neutrality if reclassification occurs.
Boucher now is a partner at Sidley Austin LLP and honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance.
He said that if reclassification occurs, Congress would conduct numerous hearings, that the FCC chairman would end up repeatedly testifying on the Hill, that the agency would be occupied with responding to questions and that legislation would be introduced.
“If the debate about network neutrality creeps over into the telecom reform conversation, then I think it’s very difficult to get into the real issues,” he later said.
That would happen is reclassification occurs, he said, and what would result is that “any notion of a meaningful telecom reform” would need to be postponed for at least one Congress until the dust settles, he said.