What does the MN Charter VoIP decision have in common with state net neutrality? A move to federal policies

Clayton Caller recently ran an article that outlines how “Ajit Pai helped Charter kill consumer-protection rules in Minnesota” and what impact that might have on state’s voice with Net Neutrality. It’s one of those times when I wish I were a teacher again and I could stand in front of the class and say – I think this one is going to be on the test. The details are wonky but understanding what’s going on is important.

Here’s the gist of the Charter case from the article…

The new court ruling found that Minnesota‘s state government cannot regulate VoIP phone services offered by Charter and other cable companies because VoIP is an “information service” under federal law. Pai argues that the case is consistent with the FCC‘s attempt to preempt state-level net neutrality rules, in which the commission reclassified broadband as a Title I information service instead of a Title II telecommunications service.

The ruling was by the US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, following a lawsuit filed by Charter Communications against the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC). A three-judge panel ruled against Minnesota in a 2-1 vote—the FCC had  supporting Charter‘s position in the case.

“[F]ederal law for decades has recognized that states may not regulate information services,” in response to the ruling. “The 8th Circuit‘s decision is important for reaffirming that well-established principle: ‘[A]ny state regulation of an information service conflicts with the federal policy of non-regulation‘ and is therefore preempted.”

I’ve posted about the Charter case before but I think what’s important here is bumping authority from the state to federal level…

Pai said the ruling “is wholly consistent with the approach the FCC has taken under Democratic and Republican Administrations over the last two decades, including in last year‘s Restoring Internet Freedom order,” which repealed net neutrality rules and reclassified broadband. While and other states are imposing net neutrality rules, the FCC says the reclassification should preempt any such attempts at regulating broadband at the state level.

Despite Pai‘s contention, a lawyer involved in the net neutrality case against the FCC told Ars that the 8th Circuit ruling “has no bearing” on the net neutrality case.

Last week, Representative Stephenson introduced HF 136, a state version of a Net Neutrality bill. Proponents talked about the public’s support for the idea of Net Neutrality. Opponents talks about the Net Neutrality as a federal issue, not state issue. Couple that with the fact that at the federal level there is a push for a rural broadband office within the FCC. It seems like a wave is building to move broadband policy to a federal level. What will that mean for funding, for mapping, for broadband availability, affordability and use?

This entry was posted in FCC, MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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