T-Mobile's Legere opposes reclassifying broadband under Title II in net neutrality debate

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) CEO John Legere came out against President Barack Obama's statement in support of the "strongest possible" net neutrality rules and his push for the FCC to reclassify broadband as Title II common carrier services. While not surprising, given T-Mobile's past stance on net neutrality, the opinion offered by Legere puts him in league with Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T), two companies he is usually railing against.

In a series of tweets on Monday night, Legere said T-Mobile is "the consumers' advocate" and supports no-blocking rules, no-discrimination rules, and more transparency related to net neutrality.

"The #Uncarrier will NOT waver in our position as the consumers' advocate!!," he tweeted.

"On regulation, I am in favor of less vs. more. Less regulation = more innovation!," Legere said. "Like it or not, regulation can stifle innovation and the #uncarrier is all about changing this broken industry!"

Legere indicated he favors the FCC using Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act to set new net neutrality rules, not reclassifying broadband under Title II.

What makes Legere's stance interesting is that the carrier's "Music Freedom" program, which exempts subscribers' usage of a dozen music streaming services from counting toward their data buckets, skirts up against net neutrality. Even though the program now covers essentially all of the most popular music streaming services, some like Beats Music are not included, meaning T-Mobile is favoring some data packets over others. Proponents of the plan argue that T-Mobile is not blocking access to music streaming services that are not in the program or slowing those services down, and thus the carrier is not running afoul of net neutrality principles.

In his statement, Obama said that the net neutrality rules he favors should apply to wireless networks as well as wireline ones, but he acknowledged that wireless networks are different than wired ones. Obama thinks that the FCC should classify consumer broadband service under Title II while at the same time abstaining from imposing rate regulation "and other provisions less relevant to broadband services."

Carriers and ISPs have said that if the FCC classifies broadband as Title II service, investment would shrivel up. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler indicated Monday that the FCC staff is exploring "hybrid" approaches, which have been proposed by some members of Congress and leading advocates of net neutrality, which would combine the use of both Title II and Section 706. Staunch net neutrality advocates want the FCC to use Title II, since they say it would put the rules on firmer legal footing, but Wheeler indicated the FCC is still working through the legal and practical implications of both the hybrid and reclassification approaches.

Verizon has said the approach favored by Obama would reverse precedent, is unnecessary and would likely lead to another lawsuit to stop the rules. Verizon sued over the last set of net neutrality rules the FCC tried to impose and largely won after a federal appeals court in January threw out most of those rules. AT&T has also signaled its strong opposition to Obama's approach. For its part, Sprint (NYSE: S) declined to comment on Obama's statement.

For more:
- see this The Verge article
- see this Re/code article

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