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Internet Giants Speak Up for Net Neutrality

Sarah Thomas

Google and a number of other Internet giants are stepping up the pressure on US regulators to consider new net neutrality rules, and they're planning a promotional campaign to garner consumer support for their message.

The Internet Association, an advocacy group for the open Internet that counts Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Facebook , Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), and Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) amongst its members, wrote a comment to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Monday, urging it to treat mobile networks the same as wireline when it comes to net neutrality.

The web companies want regulators to limit the ability of Internet service providers, fixed or mobile, to offer prioritized web traffic for certain content partners and to ensure ISPs don't limit consumer access to the web. It's been an ongoing issue, and the FCC has been seeking input on a proposal to ban ISPs from blocking some users' access to websites and apps, but allow "commercially reasonable" deals between content providers and ISPs to prioritize delivery of some traffic.

They are far from the only players trying to exert influence on what is going to be a contentious process. In the the Wall Street Journal Sunday, former FCC economist Thomas Haslett and Federal Trade Commission member Joshua Wright argued that net neutrality amounts to "micromanagement" of the Internet. They pointed to the fact that the Internet is already heavily influenced by commercial agreements that benefit the largest players, such as Google's ability to build its own backbone network. The FCC has not documented any pattern of net neutrality problems, the two noted, even in its own internal research.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler passed a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on "Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet" in May, but all it amounts to -- at least in the short term -- is an agreement for the FCC to explore its options further for regulating broadband service. (See FCC Split on Net Neutrality Plans .)

The Internet Association admonished the FCC on Monday, noting that segregation of the Internet into fast and slow lanes will "distort the market, discourage innovation, and harm Internet users." Its three key tenets are: that Internet users should get what they want, when they want; they should get what they pay for; and all networks should have equal protection.

"That open and decentralized model is precisely what enabled the Internet to become one of the greatest engines for growth, prosperity, and progress the world has ever known," the Association's President and CEO Michael Beckerman wrote in a statement. "Recent Court rulings have placed that model at risk, and the FCC must act to protect an open Internet for all.”

The Internet Association plans to roll out a campaign around this message and seek Internet users' feedback in the coming weeks. The FCC has so far received more than 647,000 public comments on Wheeler's proposal in May. The deadline for comments is Tuesday evening.

Even so, it's safe to say a lot of people have their doubts over whether a suitable solution will be reached from this process. In an ongoing Light Reading poll on the matter, nearly half -- 47% -- said they don't think the net neutrality issue will see a solution until "a long time after hell freezes over." (See Net Neutrality and Meet Tom Wheeler, Net Neutrality Procrastinator-in-Chief.)

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Sabre
7/14/2014 | 4:51:11 PM
Re: The Original Intent of Neutrality...

No, Net Neutrality is Common Carriage not Universal Service.  Universal Service requires that everyone by law must get a telephone line.  That means if you build a house in NE Alaska, 500 miles from any village...you by law have to have a telephone line given to you.  In that circumstance, they would probably convince you to take a Sat Phone at Wireline prices or give it to you for free.  Net Neutrality and Common Carriage are all about how the traffic is treated, not availability of access.



User Rank: Light Beer
7/14/2014 | 4:29:42 PM
The Original Intent of Neutrality...
the funny thing about net neutrality is that no sticky definition of it exists :)

someone correct me if i am wrong, but wasn't net neutrality supposed to be the Internet era equivalent of the universal service mandate that SPs had in telephony? that means that it is there to serve the interests of subscribers, and shouldn't be hijacked by large companies.

many subscribers actually pay their subscription by usage rates - there are volume caps etc, both in wired and wireline. so why shouldn't content providers? is is fair for users to *doubly* subsidize the content provider giants - via subscriptions and data volume based rates on *their* side?
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/14/2014 | 3:45:15 PM
Wired n Wireless net neutrality
I want to see what happens if these folks get what they want - wired and wireless being treated the same. Think we will quickly be back to the days of, "can you hear me now?" They have no clue that there are reatrictions on spectrum even if the FCC opens more to the market
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/14/2014 | 12:28:38 PM
Re: Net Neutrality Indeed Sticky
Yeah I doubt we see meaningful rules any time soon. I think the fight for real rules died long ago and this is just some residual whimpering.

Google meanwhile is being disengenuous-- hoping we forget that it was Google, AT&T and Verizon draft language that helped make sure wireless networks were omitted from the original neutrality protections to begin with. Google's now claiming they love neutrality, but they're doing little to nothing about it outside of being co-signatories to letters that don't request a clear path forward (like Title II reclassification).
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
7/14/2014 | 11:52:14 AM
Re: Net Neutrality Indeed Sticky
One of the points made in the Wall Street Journal article is that a lot of these guys are already buying fast lanes -- Google built its own backbone network for that purpose, Netflix built its own CDN and is forging new connection agreements with local ISPs - so from my frame of reference, I'm not sure their opinions are just a big hypocritical. 

It is certain this whole argument is going to play out in a contentious manner and I'd be surprised to see Net Neutrality rules coming out of the FCC any time soon. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/14/2014 | 11:10:09 AM
Net Neutrality Indeed Sticky
While the idea of treating everyone equally sounds like the right thing to do, if someone like Comcast or Netflix will pay more so that their content doesn't get hung up. They have a point that if they pay for something, it should get preferred treatment over a non-payer's latest home video. But there's also the consideration that the deep pockets could dominate the Internet, leaving the little guy hanging. So the conclusion that any decision will take an extremely long time is probably right.
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