The FCC will not allow Internet service providers to ruin the “Open Internet,” despite the introduction of new rules regulating Internet access.
In a blog post on the FCC’s site, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today tried to ease the fears of Internet users concerned by the idea that their ISP could slow down some services in order to charge subscribers more for access to content.
Early in the post, he wrote: “At the heart of the proposed NPRM [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking] is the assurance that it won’t be possible for an Internet provider to degrade the service available to all.”
He then went on to give specific examples of what kind of behaviour won’t be tolerated from ISPs like Comcast:
- Something that harms consumers is not commercially reasonable. For instance, degrading service in order to create a new “fast lane” would be shut down.
- Something that harms competition is not commercially reasonable. For instance, degrading overall service so as to force consumers and content companies to a higher-priced tier would be shut down.
- Providing exclusive, prioritised service to an affiliate is not commercially reasonable. For instance, a broadband provider that also owns a sports network should not be able to give a commercial advantage to that network over another competitive sports network wishing to reach viewers over the Internet.
- Something that curbs the free exercise of speech and civic engagement is not commercially reasonable. For instance, if the creators of new Internet content or services had to seek permission from ISPs or pay special fees to be seen online such action should be shut down.
He also wrote that the FCC would step in if Internet service providers were to limit the growth of an exciting new startup:
If we get to a situation where arrival of the ‘next Google’ or the ‘next Amazon’ is being delayed or deterred, we will act as necessary using the full panoply of our authority.
In what seemed to be a reference to the ongoing public fight between Comcast and Netflix, Wheeler also addressed the relationship between the FCC, net neutrality, and the companies that move data around the Internet:
The question of how networks exchange Internet traffic, such as through peering, was outside of the scope of our 2010 Open Internet Order and thus is outside of the proposed scope of the Open Internet NPRM. However, we will seek comment on this question, in order to hear from those who may disagree with this suggested treatment of peering/traffic exchange.
It is important to remember, however, that the manner in which networks interconnect to exchange Internet traffic is a part of what I call the Network Compact, those values that have traditionally governed successful networks. Thus, it is a question that must concern the Commission. Right now, through both written filings in the “remand” docket and through presentations made by networks and others to the Commission, we are receiving points of view on the manner in which current traffic exchange regimes are, or are not, working. We encourage such dialogue with networks, edge providers and end users. The bottom line is that interconnection has always been a key component of telecom policy.