WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sprint Corp will keep investing in its networks even if U.S. regulators adopt stricter "net neutrality" rules as long as they are applied with a "light touch," the company said in a letter to the FCC released on Friday.
Sprint's position appears to contrast with other cable and phone companies who have staunchly rejected the possibility that the FCC regulate Internet service providers (ISPs) more strictly under a section of communications law known as Title II, which would treat them more like public utilities.
President Barack Obama has endorsed the use of Title II to ensure the ISPs treat all web traffic fairly and the White House on Thursday said that approach gave the FCC the needed authority, without the need for legislation.
At stake is whether and how ISPs should be banned from blocking or slowing down websites and applications and from charging content companies for "prioritized" downloads.
"Sprint does not believe that a light touch application of Title II, including appropriate forbearance, would harm the continued investment in, and deployment of, mobile broadband services," Sprint's Chief Technology Officer Stephen Bye wrote to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a letter dated Jan. 15.
"So 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 some other light touch regulatory regime."
The debate over what rules should govern the ISPs' network management practices and which legal standard that should rely on has raged in the telecom industry and at the Federal Communications Commission for nearly a year. The law has been in flux since a federal court threw out its previous version in January 2014.
Republicans in Congress are trying to drum up support for a bill that would counter the FCC's upcoming new rules, which appear likely to rely on the Title II authority as Obama has urged.
Large ISPs, such as Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc, say they support an open Internet but have warned that a stricter regulatory regime could hurt their investments and innovation.
AT&T Inc has said it will not make new investments in high-speed Internet connections until the net neutrality rules are settled. It has also threatened legal action if the FCC adopts the Title II approach. [ID:nL2N0TG144]
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Christian Plumb)