Net Neutraility Comments at the FCC

Network_neutrality_poster_symbolThe FCC’s Net Neutrality docket got over 1 million comments, most from ordinary Americans who are worried about the large ISPs and web companies colluding to restrict or hijack their Internet experience. I read through some of these comments and people are universally worried about companies like Comcast and Google getting together to limit what they can do on the web. The public does not want to see a network provider have the ability to slow down their Internet experience or to dictate which web sites they can use.

Obviously I didn’t read all of the comments in this docket and one has to wonder if anybody at the FCC can or will read it all. That’s a tall task. But I did look at the comments of the larger carriers and web companies to see what they have to say. There were no surprises with the big ISPs on one side of the issue and almost everybody else on the other.

AT&T is in favor of no additional regulation of the Internet, meaning they would be free to prioritize traffic if they wish. This could obviously make them a lot of money. AT&T says if there must be regulation that they would prefer it to be through Section 706 regulation, which is the section of the FCC rules that talks about no blocking of Internet traffic. AT&T is totally against having a Title II classification of the Internet as a common carrier business. And not surprisingly, AT&T is not in favor of regulating data for wireless carriers.

Comcast is also against Title II classification as a common carrier and they prefer no regulation at all. Comcast says that they are already a good web citizen and don’t need to be regulated, but even if they were there would be loopholes that would allow carriers like them to discriminate. This seems like an odd argument to make from a company that wants approval for a giant merger. Comcast says that if there is regulation that it should also apply to public Wi-Fi and mobile broadband.

Verizon had the longest comments I saw. Verizon believes the best solution is the least amount of regulation possible. They think the market will control carriers because customers won’t accept being throttled. Verizon says the real threat to the Internet comes from companies like Google, Netflix and Amazon. And obviously they are very much against Title II regulation.

On the other side of the argument is, well, just about everybody else except a few other cable companies. There were a few filings that represented groups of Internet-based companies. The Information Technology Industry Council represented companies like Apple, Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Yahoo and many others. They argue that the FCC needs to put in rules to protect consumers, but also to protect both small and large web-based companies. They are not in favor of Title II regulation but instead would like to see something similar to the rules that were vacated by the courts.

The Internet Association represents Amazon, Ebay, Expedia, Facebook, Google, Linked-In, Twitter, Netflix, Yahoo, Yelp and many others. As you might have noticed, Google and Yahoo are in both industry groups. This group also doesn’t support full Title II regulation but thinks that the FCC needs to find ways to stop the ISPs from discriminating and wants the FCC to support application agnostic network management. They want the same rules to apply to wireless carriers.

Netflix is at the core of a current battle over network neutrality. Netflix is about the only big tech company I could find in favor of Title II regulation. They think anything short of full title II reclassification will just be asking for another court battle that the FCC will eventually lose.

One has to wonder if the volume of public comments means anything. It’s clear where the public stands on this issue and people are afraid that the Internet is going to change to their detriment. They already see the ongoing battle between Verizon and Netflix and they don’t want to see a future where their web experience is dependent upon how ISPs and content providers are getting along. When they buy an amount of bandwidth from an ISP they want whatever fits into that bandwidth to work.

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