This month, Kim Keenan, President and CEO of The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC), spoke on the Federal Communications Bar Association (FCBA) CLE Seminar panel, “Understanding Net Neutrality and the Path Ahead,” moderated by former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell.
The panel discussion focused on the recent FCC Open Internet Order’s impact on the telecommunications ecosystem and consumers, particularly those from vulnerable populations that include the economically challenged, seniors, and the disabled.
Keenan shared MMTC’s concerns about the regulatory overreach and lack of flexibility of using Title II of the Communications Act to regulate the Internet.
As an alternative, MMTC believes that the FCC’s authority under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, even with its flaws, could facilitate the maturation of the online ecosystem while enforcing open Internet and other concerns, such as prohibiting redlining, ensuring public safety, and giving the Commission the appropriate authority over universal service. She reiterated MMTC’s position that Section 706 authority, coupled with a probable cause consumer enforcement mechanism modeled after Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, would fully satisfy the goals of the Open internet Order.
“[Title II] reclassification puts deployment and adoption at risk,” stated Keenan. “To me, this is not good for people of color. The people who have been weighing in on this—in support of Title II reclassification—they’re all using the Internet. What about the tens of millions of people who haven’t adopted?”
Keenan emphasized that MMTC fully supports an open Internet, clarifying that the differences between MMTC’s position and that of other open Internet proponents is merely about the method of regulation, not the need for regulation, and that she could not fathom how using a 1930’s law that was created for a single monopoly could be the right answer. She explained MMTC’s position that the need to close the digital divide and promote adoption and digital literacy should be a higher priority at the FCC than allowing the open Internet issue to consume the FCC’s resources by trying to fix a problem that does not exist.
Steptoe & Johnson Partner Pantelis Michalopoulos disagreed with Keenan’s assessment of the merits on the “old” laws, stating that they are not necessarily bad, citing the First Amendment as an example of an old law that remains very much relevant today. Keenan responded that “it’s not the old laws that were the problem, but rather the fact that these laws are both old and highly prescriptive.”
All panelists weighed in on the futility in trying to predict the appeals court’s decision on the FCC’s Open Internet order; however, Pantelis predicted that the court would fully uphold the part of the FCC’s order that reclassifies broadband service as a common carrier offering.
On the issue of Section 706 regulation, TechFreedom President Berin Szoka stated, “The court ought to address the question of what 706 is before addressing the question of whether the FCC crossed the line.”
Other panelists, including Public Knowledge Staff Attorney Jodie Griffin and National Hispanic Media Coalition Policy Director Michael Scurato, discussed the importance of preserving the rights of end users and the ability of Edge companies to continue sending and receiving content without interference from ISPs.
At the end of the discussion, Keenan promoted MMTC’s new Twitter campaign #NetLawNow, which calls on Congress to craft a legislative compromise. “They need to put on their legislative underwear and get in there and get it done,” she said.