Verizon is one of the strongest opponents to the network neutrality rules the Federal Communications Commission approved today, so it's not surprising that the company put out a press release criticizing today's vote. However, the way the company chose to do it was a bit of a surprise:
Verizon wrote this press release with a typewriter font, and it dated it 1934 rather than 2015. Here's why.
The most controversial aspect of the FCC rule is a legal tactic called reclassification. Telecommunications law distinguishes among different categories of service — Title I governs online services like YouTube and Facebook; Title II governs utilities like telephone service.
For the past decade, the FCC has classified broadband service under Title I, a category that limited the FCC's ability to impose strong network neutrality regulations. By reclassifying broadband as a Title II service, the FCC gains stronger authority to regulate it.
Verizon, of course, hates this change. And one of their key arguments is that the Title II rules are outdated. Opponents love to point out that Title II has its origins in the 1934 Communications Act, which was written to regulate the old AT&T monopoly. In Verizon's view, such an old law can't possibly be a good fit for the modern internet — hence the 1934 date and the typewriter font.
There are a couple of important counterarguments, however. First, while Title II was originally written in 1934, it was last updated by 1996, and by a Republican Congress. DSL service was classified under Title II as recently as 2005. So it's not like the FCC is resurrecting ancient laws that haven't been used in decades.
Second, when Congress overhauled the law in 1996, it gave the FCC a power called forbearance, which allows the agency to choose not to enforce provisions of the law it regards as out of date. The FCC's new rules use that power aggressively to avoid imposing counterproductive regulations on the internet. For example, Title II gives the FCC the power to regulate the prices broadband providers charge, but the agency is choosing not to use that authority.