Broadband providers made it clear this week: they wholeheartedly support net neutrality… but they want to overturn those pesky net neutrality rules and replace them with something that isn’t so strict.
In fact, the way to truly protect net neutrality is to keep the Internet free of regulations, Internet provider CenturyLink wrote. “Keep the Internet Open and Free—Without Regulation” was the title of CenturyLink’s blog post Wednesday.
“Reversing the FCC’s 2015 Internet regulation order will do several positive things: Increase customer choice, spur innovation and investment, [and] create lasting consumer and competitive protections,” CenturyLink wrote.
Comcast, meanwhile, accused net neutrality supporters of “creat[ing] hysteria.”
This was part of a flurry of activity by ISPs and broadband lobby groups in response to yesterday’s “Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality,” a protest of the Federal Communications Commission plan to deregulate broadband and eliminate or replace net neutrality rules. All of the ISPs and lobby groups claimed to support net neutrality even though they have fought against the FCC’s attempts to enforce rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.
The Day of Action resulted in more than 3.4 million e-mails to Congress and more than 1.6 million comments to the FCC, protest organizer Fight for the Future said yesterday. “More than 125,000 websites, people, artists, online creators, and organizations” signed up to participate in the protest, the group said.
The net neutrality docket now has 7.3 million comments.
Verizon lawsuit killed first net neutrality rules
“Like those participating in the Day of Action, Verizon supports the open Internet,” Verizon wrote.
Verizon is the same company that sued the FCC over a weaker set of net neutrality rules issued in 2010. Verizon’s lawsuit got those rules thrown out, but that was a temporary victory because it ultimately led to the FCC imposing a stricter set of rules by using its Title II authority over common carriers.
“While we agree with the goal of an open Internet, we do not think the answer is to impose 1930s utility regulation on ISPs. Regulation designed for rotary phones and monopoly railroads doesn’t fit today’s competitive Internet space,” Verizon wrote.
Verizon argued that today’s rules should be thrown out and that Congress should “craft a durable set of rules that protect the open Internet without discouraging the investment in the next generation of broadband networks.”
Republicans in Congress have advanced several net neutrality proposals; some would impose a version of net neutrality rules while gutting the FCC’s authority to regulate ISPs, while others would wipe out net neutrality rules altogether.
“Legally enforceable” rules to replace legally enforceable rules
Comcast, which helped kick off the decade-long net neutrality saga by throttling BitTorrent traffic, also pushed for Congress to replace the current net neutrality rules with something weaker.
“You can have strong and enforceable Open Internet protections without relying on rigid, innovation-killing utility regulation that was developed in the 1930s (Title II). While some seem to want to create hysteria that the Internet as we know it will disappear if their preferred regulatory scheme isn’t in place, that’s just not reality,” Comcast wrote.
Congress should write “legally enforceable net neutrality rules” in order to “end the game of regulatory ping pong,” Comcast wrote. Verizon has also claimed that it just wants new rules that are legally “enforceable,” but the current rules are already legally enforceable. A federal appeals court confirmed that when it rejected a lawsuit filed by industry lobby groups.
Comcast yesterday said that “the Internet was fine before Title II regulation,” without mentioning its history of throttling and a lawsuit Comcast filed in order to prevent the FCC from punishing it in the BitTorrent case. Comcast did eventually agree to follow net neutrality guidelines in exchange for US government approval of its purchase of NBCUniversal in 2011, but that merger condition is scheduled to expire next year.
Cable lobby and AT&T
Cable lobby group NCTA-The Internet & Television Association said it’s opposed to blocking and throttling in its blog post about the Day of Action. “We agree that Internet users should have the freedom to go anywhere on the Internet or to run any application with confidence that Internet traffic will in no way be blocked or throttled,” the NCTA said.
The NCTA then claimed that the cable industry has “always embraced and delivered a truly open Internet experience for consumers.” But the NCTA did not mention Comcast’s throttling of BitTorrent, even though Comcast is a member of the NCTA.
AT&T announced that it was joining the Day of Action protest—even though it sued the FCC in a failed attempt to get the current rules thrown out. AT&T has been asking customers to submit pre-written comments urging Congress to pass a law to replace the rules.
Net neutrality based on “long-debunked hypothetical scenario”
Telco lobby group USTelecom accused pro-net neutrality advocates of using scare tactics to spread a “long-debunked hypothetical scenario in which Internet service providers ‘choose favorites’ and slow service to certain websites.”
“Net neutrality is something we all strongly support, and ISPs are committed to modern rules that protect the universally-embraced principles of no blocking, no throttling, and no slow lanes,” USTelecom wrote.
Advocacy group Free Press keeps a list of instances in which Free Press believes ISPs violated net neutrality principles. USTelecom board member AT&T is on this list for “forc[ing] Apple to block Skype and other competing VOIP phone services on the iPhone,” for “block[ing] Google Wallet,” and for “disabl[ing] the FaceTime video-calling app on its customers’ iPhones unless they subscribed to a more expensive text-and-voice plan.”
USTelecom board member Verizon is also on the list for blocking Google Wallet and for “blocking people from using tethering applications on their phones.”
But according to USTelecom, this week’s pro-net neutrality event is just about making more money for what it calls “Big Internet”—i.e. the websites Internet users pay their ISPs to access.
“When you log on today and see the ‘spinning wheel of doom,’ keep in mind that some of the biggest and most dominant online companies in the world don’t need you to fight their battles for them, but they are asking anyway,” USTelecom wrote.
What really slows networks and harms consumers is reduced investment, USTelecom wrote. But while the group claims that the FCC’s net neutrality rules harm network investment, ISPs themselves have told investors that the rules haven’t affected their spending decisions.
More Info: arstechnica.com