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