Ever since the Federal Communications Commission took a decision to stand by its strict net neutrality rules by extending them to mobile broadband, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association along with major telecom companies have been at loggerheads with the Commission over the ruling. While the FCC has reasoned that open internet rules will not hamper investments in the mobile broadband industry like in the case of Verizon which poured in billions of dollars after being subjected to the 700 MHz C Block open access rules, the CTIA believes that mobile broadband by its very nature is different from fixed broadband and any decision to throttle exclusive use of spectrum to offer advanced mobile broadband coverage across the U.S. will hamper investments. Earlier this year, the FCC received a shot in the arm when a three-judge bench upheld the FCC's ruling, but the CTIA has now requested for a full bench review of the decision made by the three-judge panel.
In its petition, the CTIA argued that FCC's ruling is unlawful since the Congress 'forbade the FCC from imposing common-carrier status on mobile broadband'. The CTIA further stated that since mobile broadband does not interconnect with public switched networks unlike landlines, it cannot be placed under common-carrier regulation under the Communications Act of 1934. The FCC has, the CTIA submitted, not reasonably defined 'public switched networks' since it has clubbed both telephone and the internet as a single unified network which is not possible as one cannot make a phone call using the internet, like in the case of tablets without cellular networks. The CTIA is convinced that unless the FCC rolls back its decision, access to 5G speeds as well as Internet of Things technologies would suffer as investments would dry up. Meredith Attwell Baker, CEO of CTIA, has urged the FCC to support innovative new services which benefit consumers in the long run.
On its part, the FCC is firm about its ruling and it seems that the current litigation will be a long drawn one, given the stakes involved. The FCC also has the results of the recent AWS Auction on its side. The auction, conducted under existing FCC rules which are being challenged by the CTIA, generated as much as $41 billion in investments which signified that exclusive use of spectrum wasn't a precondition to attracting investments. "We are confident that the full court will agree with the panel's affirmation of the FCC's clear authority to enact its strong Open Internet rules, the reasoned decision-making upon which they are based, and the adequacy of the record from which they were developed," said Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC.