Breaking ranks with other Internet service providers, Sprint told the Federal Communications Commission on Friday that reclassifying broadband as a utility won't lead companies to curb investment in mobile broadband.
“So long as the FCC continues to allow wireless carriers to manage our networks and differentiate our products, Sprint will continue to invest in data networks,” Sprint's chief technology officer Stephen Bye said in a letter to regulators.
Bye added that the telecom will invest in broadband regardless of whether the FCC reclassifies it as a utility service, in which case it would be regulated under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. "Sprint does not believe that a light-touch application of Title II, including appropriate forbearance, would harm the continued investment in, and deployment of, mobile broadband services,” he wrote.
Many Net neutrality proponents, including President Obama, are urging the FCC to declare broadband a utility. Doing so will enable the FCC to impose Net neutrality rules that ban broadband providers from charging companies higher fees for faster delivery of material to consumers, advocates argue.
Most of the large telecoms and cable companies oppose this prospect.
They argue that Title II regulations, which initially were designed for telephone carriers, aren't suitable for broadband. Opponents of utility-style rules have warned that broadband carriers will stop investing in their networks, if the FCC decides to treat broadband as a utility.
Verizon, which opposes utility treatment, has indicated that it will sue to block any decision reclassifying broadband. “The radical course of 'reclassification' will lead to endless rounds of litigation and will likely be reversed on appeal,” the company said in a filing submitted to the FCC on Thursday.
Verizon also argues that utility regulations “could prevent mobile broadband from developing into a true competitive alternative to advanced wireline broadband services, such as cable.”
But Net neutrality supporters say that Sprint's latest FCC filing proves that treating broadband as a utility won't discourage carriers from improving service.
“This letter confirms that the source of authority used for net neutrality rules will not harm network investments, or risk an internet service provider’s business model,” advocacy group Public Knowledge stated.