Republican FCC Member Says Obama Web Rules Would Risk Battle

Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp. and a Republican Federal Communications Commission member said imposing strong open-Internet rules backed by President Barack Obama would bring lengthy litigation.

“The end result of all this is going to be years of regulatory uncertainty” and “serious damage to our nation’s broadband market,” Ajit Pai, a Republican commissioner, said today at an event hosted by the Free State Foundation, a Washington non-profit.

Executives from chip maker Intel and gear maker Cisco said in a Nov. 10 meeting with FCC staff that taking Obama’s approach “would be unlawful and unwise, relegating the industry to years of litigation and uncertainty,” according to a disclosure filing on the agency’s website today.

Obama on Nov. 10 called on the FCC to ensure Internet service providers treat Web traffic fairly, and said the agency should use stricter rules than those proposed by Chairman Tom Wheeler.

The independent agency, which has a three-member Democratic majority including Wheeler, is considering what to do. Deliberations will stretch into next year, said Kim Hart, an FCC spokeswoman.

The president has “an important voice” and his views will be fully considered, Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, the FCC’s other Republican, said at the Free State event.

‘Long Process’

The FCC is independent and doesn’t make decisions based on the views “of any particular elected official,” O’Rielly said. He and Pai declined to answer questions from reporters.

AT&T Inc. Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson in a televised interview today said arguments could stretch for years.

“For the president to accomplish what he wants is going to be a very long process by the FCC,” Stephenson said in an interview on Fox Business Network. “Whether it’s AT&T or not, somebody will litigate that outcome. So we are two, three years down the road before you get any clarity.”

On Nov. 12, Stephenson told a group of investors that AT&T will delay installing Internet infrastructure in 100 cities until rules to keep the Internet open are clarified.

Congressional Republicans say they oppose Obama’s plan as unnecessary regulation. Supporters say strong rules are needed to keep Internet service providers led by AT&T, Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. from blocking or slowing Web traffic.

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