Eric Fruits on Net Neutrality
Eric Fruits, a senior scholar at the International Center for Law and Economics, told Law360 on Wednesday the FCC has multiple avenues to use common-carrier regulation to affect broadband rates. “One of the big concerns that people have about the Title II reclassification is that it does open the door for rate regulation,” he said. “In some sense, one of the main purposes of Title II, at least with respect to telecoms, is rate regulation.”
Fruits, who recently co-authored a report with Geoffrey Manne on “de facto rate regulation” in the telecom sector, noted that with the 2015 net neutrality order, the FCC made clear it was not tackling that issue. Rosenworcel this week was “pretty adamant that they’re not doing it,” he said, but even so “there are some other issues that I think raise questions.”
For example, the chair mentioned banning paid prioritization several times, which the 2015 Open Internet Order did, “and it’s really hard to say [that] is not a form of rate regulation,” he said.
Another issue that will probably come up is zero-rating, which is an industry practice that involves not applying data caps to certain services. Fruits said that issue was never fully resolved from the 2015 order. “I think that is an issue that could come up again,” he said. “If you get rid of zero-rating, that again, is a form of rate regulation.”
Fruits said other concerns could arise from a Title II classification such as rates for attaching broadband equipment to utility poles.