As the initial comment period regarding the FCC’s currently proposed net neutrality rules comes to a close, the Internet Association today released a strongly worded statement calling for strict net neutrality rules that would not include paid prioritization, or what many refer to as Internet “fast lanes.”
The letter also supports applying net neutrality rules to wireless connections, and argues for more Internet Service Provider transparency to prevent abuse regarding network interconnectivity.
The group, which counts Google, Twitter and TechCrunch-owner AOL as members, debases paid prioritization as currently proposed as a “difficult to enforce, multi-framework that is not focused on the goals of broadband deployment and adoption.” The public, the group argues, “would be far better served by clearer and more straightforward prohibitions against blocking and paid-prioritization.”
The group believes the FCC’s proposed “commercial reasonability” test to determine when paid prioritization could be allowed has holes — and isn’t actually workable. More reasonable action, the group says, is needed to get rid of a potential flaw or weakness in net neutrality rules.
The Association is not impressed by the argument that net neutrality regulation will harm investment in new broadband capacity. Instead, in its view, the opposite will take place: Open Internet rules will preserve the driving force of the Internet — unencumbered innovation and growth — increasing its utility. The average consumer will therefore buy more, and better access to the Internet, something that their ISP would certainly appreciate.
Noting a rising amount of investment by private companies in both wired and wireless connectivity, and consumer spend in streaming video and mobile apps, the group argues that “[w]hile correction does not imply causation, the symbiotic relationship of Internet broadband access providers and content providers is indisputable.”
In a sense, this is the offer of a somewhat aggressively ironic détente — what’s good for me is what’s good for you. “It is edge providers – whether they provide content, applications, or services – that fuel Internet growth and innovation. Consumer demand for broadband comes from the applications that consumers access via their broadband service, rather than from the service itself,” the Association said.
The Association also delved into a topic that has seen less discussion: Treating wireless connections the same as wired for the purposes of regulations. Currently, mobile providers face the same transparency requirements as wired connections, but do not face the same rules and regulations when it comes to other aspects of net neutrality, like blocking. The members of the Association, which are often content providers themselves, want their content to be unencumbered, regardless of what device or connection is being used to access it.
Peering was left out of the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, with Chairman Tom Wheeler stating at the time that it was “better addressed separately.” Given the strong comments association member Netflix has made on the matter, and the fact that it cropped up in the group’s letter, it seems that some technology companies disagree with the Chairman.
However, the letter doesn’t go as far as to say that paid-peering agreements of the sort that Netflix has signed with several ISPs, should be banned, but instead that the FCC “should ensure that carriers are not engaged in any market abuses through peering arrangements and be prepared to exercise its authority to prevent any abuse that it uncovers.” Mild, perhaps, but likely all that the group could hope for given that peering is outside the scope of the proposed rules as they stand now.
The FCC has received more than 650,000 comments on its website. Users can continue to submit comments until 9:00 p.m. PST on Tuesday.