Net Neutrality: Latest Proposal Will Make Everybody Unhappy

In the latest net neutrality proposal, the Federal Communications Commission has reportedly cooked up an idea guaranteed to unite both net neutrality advocates and carriers: They're both going to hate it.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) head Tom Wheeler is considering a plan to split the Internet, separating the "back-end" connection between carriers and content providers from the "retail" connections between carriers and consumers, according to a report on the Wall Street Journal late Thursday. The FCC would require net neutrality on the back end, classifying it as common carrier, but leave carriers free to cut special deals with consumers.

The proposal would give the FCC authority to police deals between content companies like Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and broadband providers. Says the Journal:

    The proposal would leave the door open for broadband providers to offer specialized services for, say, videogamers or online video providers, which require a particularly large amount of bandwidth. The proposal would also allow the commission to explore usage-based pricing at some point, in which consumers are charged based on how much data they use and companies are able to subsidize traffic to their websites or applications.

    While the FCC still believes there should be room for such deals, its latest plan would shift the burden to the broadband providers to prove that the arrangements would be beneficial to consumers and equally available to any company that would like to participate. FCC officials believe reclassification would put them on much stronger legal footing to block such deals when they are anticompetitive.

Carriers, which have resisted any kind of net neutrality regulation, are going to hate this proposal. So will net neutrality advocates, who want to regulate the Internet end to end.

Find out more about key developments related to broadband on Light Reading's dedicated broadband channel.

The proposal as described by the Journal has at least three big unanswered questions:

  • Would this proposal apply to the wired Internet only, or would it also apply to wireless connectivity? The consumer Internet is increasingly becoming a wireless network.

  • The Journal article talks about the connection to the customer as a "retail" connection. What kind of effect would this proposal have on business Internet customers?

  • Would carriers and content providers be allowed to cut deals to provide subsidized connections to consumers where, for example, Facebook pays to allow consumers to connect to Facebook (and only Facebook) for free?

It's difficult to see where this proposal makes sense. Why discriminate between the two ends of Internet connections? It doesn't even make sense politically; carriers aren't going to like this any more than they've liked any other proposal for net neutrality and net neutrality advocates have already started opposition. Either regulate the whole Internet, or none at all.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to wa[email protected]

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cnwedit 10/31/2014 | 1:09:48 PM
Playing Solomon I think Wheeler and his FCC crew are in search of middle ground on Net Neutrality. The thing is, if such a thing were easily defined, it would have already emerged and we wouldn't be still debating the same issues that were being kicked around 10 years ago. 

I don't fault them for trying. But the questions you raise are certainly legit. 

On the wireless side, the notion of letting a content provider offer free or cut-rate acess to its content isn't a new thing, and I don't see how this kind of business model could be legally quashed. 
Phil_Britt 10/31/2014 | 1:34:17 PM
Everyone Will be Unhappy Regulation that pleases no one is the most likely to be enacted, if anything is. Net neutrality is a hot potato that the FCC doesn't seem like it really wants to deal with.
brooks7 10/31/2014 | 1:52:39 PM
Under what paradigm would this work  

I think it will take about 15 seconds for the courts to nuke it.  If they don't do Title II and leave Internet as an Information Service then they can't regulate by their own rules.

So, we need some new mechanism.


cnwedit 10/31/2014 | 2:18:45 PM
Re: Under what paradigm would this work It seems to me they are trying to create a new mechanism by separating the service itself from what rides over it. You may be right that they won't get court approval for that approach. 
nasimson 10/31/2014 | 2:19:47 PM
lose-lose Its not so black and white as "back-end" and "retail". There is a lot of grey area in between. FCC has opened more questions than it has answered. NN debate is taking too long to settle. Seems that FCC does not have full grasp on what it is trying to regulate.
marjsdad 10/31/2014 | 4:03:13 PM
Net Neutrality: Latest Proposal I think the proposal is brilliant. ISPs can sell interconnection to content providers on a nondiscriminatory basis, and provide backdoor services for OVDs on a non-discriminatory basis, as well as gaming priority or telemedical priority, etc., on an individual basis. Everybody speeds up, nobody slows down. Brilliant and workable.
brooks7 10/31/2014 | 4:31:22 PM
Re: Under what paradigm would this work Hey Carol,

I guess what they would have to do is more closely define what an Internet Service is.

I would think that they could create an Internet Access Service that is an Information Service.

Then they could create an Internet Transport Service that was Neutral or actually under Title II.  Even under the Title they one can create multiple classes of services that happen business to business.  I think the challenge that this essentially requires the direct peering mechanism from a large content provider to end Consumer ISPs to have stuff work.  Intervening transport could cause issues otherwise.  I will have to think on that.


Jack42 10/31/2014 | 7:57:59 PM
It's the same bad proposal as previously, except..... This reads as if it is the same propsal that wheeler previously made:  charging more for a fast lane that works, except he is now willing to regulate transit providers as a common carrier.

Sorry, but it's the last mile providers that need to be regulated as a common carrier so they start providing the service that the consumer has been already paying for.  

Could Wheeler be any more obvious of a tool for the cable/lec industry?  I guess he didn't understand what the President meant whe he said that he expects the FCC to ensure Net Neutrality is implemented and stays there.  Maybe its time Obama found someone up for doing the Job expected.  I mean 3 MILLION responses made it pretty obvious what everyone wants done here, except the last mile monopolies.

Does anyone remember when AT&T wasn't too helpful about letting MCI access it's network. Where would the industry be today without the 1984 Consent Decree?  Thats what this is turning into.







brooks7 10/31/2014 | 8:26:32 PM
Re: It's the same bad proposal as previously, except..... Jack42,


The challenge is that you may be unhappy with regulating things as common carrier.  Look back in the thread with some comments that Tom Nolle had and you can see some specifics.

There are many others.  I am not sure that this proposal - which is not yet a proposal - works.  I have not seen any specifics.  Also, you are quoting the response to a NPRM.  Now if you actually READ the NPRM, you would have found page after page of questions.  That inlcuded the ability to set up QOS classes (aka Fast Lanes).  And that was the problem with all but about 200 of the responses to the NPRM.  They were very uneducated and provided no value.  Quoting them as a statistic here is bad for your credibility.  Most of the folks here are highly educated on the realities of the issues involved.  By quoting a protest without understanding the value, you have said that you don't want to participate intellectually.


Jack42 11/1/2014 | 1:31:14 PM
Re: It's the same bad proposal as previously, except..... You are incorrect in your statement.  I am not "unhappy with regulating things as a common carrier".  What I said is that the FCC is wrong to attempt regulation on transit providers, when it is the last mile provider that needs to be considered a common carrier and subject to regulation.  So, my point is that they appear to be indicating, they are willing to regulate the wrong party in this debate.

So, I am sure we can all agree, we are commenting on unconfirmed information here. There is no official NPRM to comment on, related to the subject of this post.  However, this information was most likely "leaked" on purpose to gauge response without commiting to an offical position. 

If you are in favor of fast and slow lanes, then we are clearly in disagreement about what course is better for the country.  I personally believe that a consumer should not be gouged by a monopoly.  I firmly believe that we, as a country and a society, benefit greatly from a network neutral, fair and equal access internet. 

This statement is a secret code:  "The FCC would require net neutrality on the back end, classifying it as common carrier, but leave carriers free to cut special deals with consumers."

I'll decode "special deals with consumers"  for you:  "Consumers should expect to get gouged with tons of new fees and countless levels of charges based on the content of data.  And if consumers submit to being gouged, then the last mile providers will ensure they don't intentionally disrupt the flow of internet traffic from it's source to the consumer.....the consumer who is already paying last mile provider to recieve this service"




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