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Sprint says Obama’s net neutrality plan won’t reduce investment

Author: Alina Selyukh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Sprint Corp will continue to invest in its networks even if U.S. regulators adopt stricter “net neutrality” rules, provided they are applied with “light caution,” the company said in a letter to the FCC published on Friday .

Sprint’s position differs from that of other cable and telephone operators, who have flatly rejected the possibility of the FCC more stringently regulating Internet service providers (ISPs) under a part of the telecommunications law known as Title II that would treat them more like public utilities.

At stake is whether and how ISPs should be prohibited from blocking or slowing down websites and applications and charging content providers for “priority” downloading.

Congressional Republicans on Friday introduced draft legislation for discussion that seeks to establish new net neutrality rules, such as bans on data throttling and paid prioritization, but without invoking the Title II regime.

President Barack Obama has endorsed the use of Title II for the new rules, and the White House said Thursday that this approach gives the FCC the necessary authority without the need to legislate.

Large internet service providers such as Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc say they support an open Internet but warn that stricter regulation could harm their investments and innovation.

AT&T Inc said it would not make new investment commitments in high-speed internet connections while net neutrality rules are changing, and threatened legal action if the FCC adopts a Title II approach.

“Sprint does not believe that a light application of Title II, including appropriate forbearance, would harm continued investment in and deployment of mobile broadband services,” Sprint Chief Technology Officer Stephen Bye wrote to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a Jan. 15 letter.

“As 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 regardless of whether they are regulated by Title II, Section 706 or another lax regulatory regime.”

Republicans are proposing new rules that would prohibit blocking or slowing certain downloads unless necessary for reasonable network management, and would restrict the FCC from doing anything, such as establishing new rules, beyond enforcing existing ones.

The House and Senate Commerce Committees are expected to discuss net neutrality and legislation during their January 21 hearings. The FCC plans to vote on the new rules on February 26.

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Christian Plumb)