Wednesday, April 08
This morning, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher had an op-ed published in The Hill encouraging Democrats to work across the aisle to legislatively ensure net neutrality is enshrined into law. An excerpt:
[W]hy, one may ask, would Democrats want to accept such an offer, since the FCC has now reclassified broadband as a telecommunications service, vesting the FCC with the power to apply a broad swath of common carrier rules to the Internet? Under that authority, the FCC can assure network neutrality and have residual power to regulate broadband providers in other ways that today are unforeseen. Why would Democrats want to give that up for a statute that only protects net neutrality?
The answer is both simple and compelling. The FCC’s reclassification decision rests on a bed of sand. It is highly impermanent and could be washed away with the next presidential election. Today’s seemingly firm network neutrality assurances are at serious risk of being lost in the future.
You can read Boucher’s full op-ed over at The Hill.
Monday, March 30
1. The courts
3. A new president
4. The budget
These are the five perils Julian Hattem of The Hill recently highlighted as potential pitfalls for the FCC’s new net neutrality rules. Hattern’s full piece is required reading for anyone concerned about the future of the Internet, since it casts a light on sheer amount of uncertainty the rules are already causing.
An excerpt about the threat of deadlock from the piece, featuring our own Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher:
For now, given the FCC’s current makeup of three Democrats and two Republicans, any company asking for exemptions to the net neutrality rules is likely to be rejected.
But if that should happen to change — for instance, if a Democratic president is unable to move his or her nominees through a GOP-controlled Senate after the current commissioners’ term expire — the agency could be stuck in a 2-2 deadlock, which would automatically grant an exemption, known as forbearance.
“It’s not too far out there,” former Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), who helped write the 1996 law undergirding the FCC’s authority, recently told The Hill.
“In that circumstance, if a forbearance petition is filed and they don’t act on it, it could be deemed granted.”
Wednesday, March 25
In the wake of the FCC’s controversial decision to regulate broadband services under Title II, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher spoke with Jim Puzzanghera at the Los Angeles Times about the possibility of Congress formally enshrining net neutrality into law. An excerpt:
Rick Boucher knows as well as anybody that net neutrality is the type of complex technology topic that Congress finds difficult to handle even when Democrats and Republicans are getting along.
But the former 14-term House member, a longtime player on Internet policy who now heads a telecommunications industry trade group, is optimistic that the controversial Internet issue could be a surprising source of compromise in a time of partisan gridlock.
“Each side can give the other the thing it wants the most,” Boucher, a well-respected Democrat who is honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance. “This is an optimal moment to legislate.”
Check out Puzzanghera’s full piece over at the Los Angeles Times.
Monday, March 16
In the wake of the FCC officially implementing Title II regulations on broadband providers, the organization Tech Freedom put together this handy infographic highlighting the problem with the Commission leaning on forbearance.
Thursday, March 12
Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its net neutrality order. In response, IIA asks on Congress to step in with a non-partisan and long-lasting legislative solution that preserves and maintains the “open Internet” without the burdens of utility-style regulation. Our full statement:
Market uncertainty accelerates today with the release of the FCC’s decision to impose public utility regulation on the Internet. Long drawn out legal challenges to the agency’s embrace of Title II regulation without clear statutory authority now await the Internet ecosystem. Yet, Congress can still rescue the nation from this fate by crafting a non-partisan and long-lasting legislative solution that would preserve and maintain an ‘open Internet’ without the burdens of utility-style regulation. Now is the time for a bi-partisan Congressional effort aimed at creating statutory permanence that helps advance innovation, investment, and broadband deployment for the benefit of all Americans.
Thursday, February 26
Today the FCC voted 3-2 to impose Title II regulation on the Internet. In response, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher had this to say:
The FCC’s decision to embrace Title II regulation over the Internet now creates an opportunity for Congress to craft a non-partisan legislative solution that provides the legal certainty necessary to preserve and maintain an “open Internet” without the burdens of utility-style regulation. After more than a decade of wrangling about the proper regulatory classification of broadband services and the scope of the FCC’s authority, it is time for Congress to provide the certainty that consumers and industry need. IIA looks forward to working with members of Congress to ensure that the promise of broadband remains available for entrepreneurs, innovators and America’s consumers without a return to the days of utility regulation.
Wednesday, February 25
Earlier today, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher testified before the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on the effects the FCC’s Net Neutrality proposal will have on the future of the Internet. In his testimony, Boucher — who served on the House Energy and Commerce and Judiciary Committees, along with the subcommittees on Communications, Technology and the Internet during his time in Congress — urged Congress to take up the issue via legislation. An excerpt:
If a Republican wins the 2016 presidential election, the new Administration would be unlikely to support a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court if the rules are struck down by a U.S. Court of Appeals. It would be unlikely that in such an event the FCC in a Republican administration would initiate a new network neutrality proceeding. In fact it is probable that an FCC with a Republican majority would, as an early order of business, undertake a reversal of the reclassification order that will be approved tomorrow.
For these reasons, the network neutrality assurances of tomorrow’s reclassification order rest on a tenuous foundation. They are at risk of being lost. Legislation is, therefore, a superior solution. It would be virtually impenetrable from a judicial challenge, and would resolve this debate with a statutory permanence and degree of certainty not available through the regulatory process.
Read Rick Boucher’s full testimony.
Wednesday, February 11
Yesterday, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai had some strong words about the Commission and President Obama’s apparent plans to apply Title II regulations to the Internet. He started off with a bang, stating:
I believe the public has a right to know what its government is doing, particularly when it comes to something as important as Internet regulation. I have studied the 332-page plan in detail, and it is worse than I had imagined. So today, I want to correct the record and explain key aspects of what President Obama’s plan will actually do.
Pai then broke down six points he believes the public are being “misled” about by the President and the FCC. Those six points are:
1. The plan doesn’t include rate regulation, a claim Commissioner Pai calls “flat-out false.” From his statement:
The plan repeatedly states that the FCC will apply sections 201 and 202 of the Communications Act, including their rate regulation provisions, to determine whether the prices charge by broadband providers are “unjust or unreasonable… Thus, for the first time, the FCC would claim the power to declare broadband Internet rates and charges unreasonable after the fact.
2. The plan is aimed at pro-competitive broadband service offerings that benefit consumers, which Pai warns will actually create a regulatory headache. His words:
The plan expressly states that usage-based pricing, data allowances — really, any offers other than an unlimited, all-you-can-eat data plan — are now subject to regulation. Indeed, the plan finds that these practices will be subject to case-by-case review under the plan’s new “Internet conduct” standard.
Pai also warns that the plan clearly places things like data allowances on mobile “on the chopping block,” which could mean consumers using less data will end up paying for those who use more.
3. In contrast to the “light-touch” regulation that has been applied to the Internet up until now, the plan gives the unelected members of the FCC “broad and unprecedented discretion to micromanage the Internet.” How? Well, Pai held up interconnection as an example, stating:
The plan states that the FCC can determine when a broadband provider must establish physical interconnection points, where they must locate those points, how much they can charge for the provision of that infrastructure, and how they will route traffic over those connections.
4. The real winners from the plan will, in fact, be lawyers. Pai again:
The plan allows class-action lawsuits — with attorneys’ fees — should any trial lawyer want to challenge an Internet service provider’s network management practices or rates. Indeed, the plan expressly declines to forbear from sections 206 and 207 of the Act, which authorize such private rights of action.
Translated: Get ready for a flurry of lawsuits. Or, as Pai described it, “more litigation and less innovation.”
5. The plan is ripe for regulatory creep. Specifically:
The plan is quite clear about the limited duration of its forbearance determinations, stating that the FCC will revisit the forbearance determinations in the future and proceed in an incremental manner with respect to additional regulation. In other words, over time, expect regulation to ratchet up and forbearance to fade.
6. The plan “opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband.” This point, really, should concern everyone outside of the regulatory bubble. Pai’s explanation:
The plan repeatedly states that it is only deferring a decision on new broadband taxes (such as Universal Service Fund fees and Telecommunications Relay Service fees, among others)—not prohibiting them. And it takes pains to make clear that nothing in the draft is intended to foreclose future state or federal tax increases. Indeed, the plan engage in the same two-step we saw last year with respect to the E-Rate program: Lay the groundwork to increase taxes in the first order, then raise them in the second. One independent estimate puts the price tag of these and other fees at $11 billion.
That’s $11 billion that would be passed on to consumers, by the way, all so the FCC can apply outdated, railroad-era regulation in order to achieve something we already have: an open Internet.
Pai ended his remarks by calling on the President and the FCC to release the plan to the public before the Commission enshrines it into law. “We should have an open, transparent debate,” he stated, and given the six points described above, it’s hard to argue with him. Here’s hoping the President and Pai’s fellow Commissioners are listening.
You can check out Commissioner Pai’s full remarks at the FCC website.
Friday, February 06
Our Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman and Larry Irving have a column in USA Today warning that the FCC risks stunting progress on the Internet. An excerpt:
[T]he war reached new heights this week, as FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed regulating our most advanced companies based on the rules designed for our oldest.
For a majority of innovators and entrepreneurs around the nation, partisan paralysis is unwelcome news, likely to spawn years of litigation, cloud investment certainty and potentially slow our economy’s most powerful engine. For objective policy analysts, the partisan intensity surrounding the net neutrality debate is unnecessary and counterproductive. Bad politics is making for bad policy.
Check out the full column over at USA Today.
Wednesday, February 04
Says Congress should resolve the Open Internet debate with targeted legislation aimed at reinstating the 2010 Open Internet Rules and not imposing public utility regulation on broadband
WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 4, 2015 – In response to press reports highlighting the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) policy direction on new Open Internet rules, IIA issued the following statements from Rick Boucher, a former Democratic congressman who chaired the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and the Internet and serves as honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), and former Assistant Secretary of Commerce under Clinton – now IIA Founding Co-Chairman – Larry Irving:
From Congressman Boucher:
“I urge Chairman Wheeler to reconsider his plan to treat broadband services under common carrier rules. Subjecting broadband to public utility regulation under Title II is unnecessary for assuring continued Internet openness and would carry deeply harmful consequences. Internet infrastructure investment would be stifled at a time when we have a national goal of extending high-speed Internet service to 98 percent of Americans.
“A better way to preserve the open Internet, protect consumers and promote innovation is to encourage the private investment necessary to support the deployment of high-speed, next-generation broadband nationwide. I’m confident in Congress’ ability to secure a win for our nation with a bi-partisan legislative solution that empowers the FCC to re-promulgate the 2010 Open Internet Rule but precludes the imposition of onerous Title II regulations. This outcome would protect the Open Internet by remedying the D.C. Circuit’s objection that the Commission lacks the statutory authority to act and maintain the existing light-touch regulatory environment that is welcoming to high-speed broadband investment.”
From Larry Irving:
“Imposing Title II regulation on broadband Internet primarily will benefit lawyers. Endless litigation will create additional uncertainty in the market and impact Internet innovation and investment as companies and investors try to figure out what provisions do or do not apply in a new Title II world.
“Democrats primarily have driven the net neutrality debate, but today Republicans in Congress stand ready to work on a bipartisan basis on legislation aimed to ‘keep the Internet open.’ If an open Internet is the goal, why is the only acceptable mechanism for achieving that goal a centuries-old regulatory framework? Preserving the open Internet through bi-partisan legislation, achieving and declaring victory on an important issue, steering clear of interminable and disruptive litigation, and reducing consumer costs by veering away from antiquated Title II regulation would seem to be the better alternative.
“For more than two decades, from the earliest days of the Internet, I along with most Democrats involved in development of our nation’s Internet policy, have advocated a light regulatory touch for the Internet. I still believe that to be preferable to utility-style regulation for the fast-moving and constantly evolving Internet. But, as important, to craft the right solution for America, we need to end the partisan politics around the Open Internet issue and work towards and embrace bi-partisan solutions.”
Tuesday, February 03
Earlier today, our Co-Chairman Larry Irving appeared on The Morning Briefing to break down the current debate over net neutrality. Among Irving’s points: net neutrality can be ensured without Title II, Congress will surely need to act at some point, and the FCC’s current path could easily become mired in litigation for years. Check out Irving’s full interview below.
Wednesday, January 21
Yesterday, the Washington Post published a must-read piece from Larry Downes breaking down why everyone who supports an open Internet should support the net neutrality bill making its way through Congress. An excerpt:
The proposed law is short and sweet. It grants the FCC authority to enforce tough new limits on how ISPs manage network traffic, directly addressing the kinds of practices both the agency and the White House have argued could, if implemented by ISPs in the future, threaten the continued success of the U.S. Internet.
At the same time, it would cleanly resolve the long-running conflict between the agency and the federal courts, who have rejected two earlier net neutrality efforts from the FCC on the ground that Congress never delegated oversight of broadband ISPs to the agency.
You can — and should — head on over to the Washington Post to read Downes’ full piece, but if you’re in a hurry we’ve put together an infographic highlighting the eight reasons he gives for supporting the bill.
Tuesday, January 13
Our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher has taken to the pages of Roll Call to argue that Congress should act now to ensure net neutrality. An excerpt:
The coming month, before the FCC acts presents a timely opportunity for Congress to step in and resolve the debate on terms that would seemingly be agreeable to Democrats and Republicans, broadband providers and consumers seeking continued access to robust high-speed Internet services. The FCC promulgated its open Internet rule in 2010 against a backdrop of consensus that had been reached through lengthy discussions among the stakeholders. While not all of the parties were in agreement, a critical mass of consumer groups, broadband providers and policymakers created the consensus that resulted in the FCC’s open Internet framework. It’s notable that among broadband providers, AT&T publicly expressed support for the rule, and it was ultimately approved with the FCC’s Democratic members voting affirmatively. Even more noteworthy is that in the four years since the open Internet rule was adopted, broadband providers have integrated its requirements into daily operations, and high-speed Internet access service has expanded absent consumer complaints of violations.
Check out Boucher’s full op-ed over at Roll Call.
Monday, January 05
Now that 2015 is officially underway — and a new, Republican-controlled Congress is arriving in Washington — the FCC has announced its plan for net neutrality will be revealed in February. Via Brian Fung of the Washington Post:
The timing indicates Wheeler does not see the need for more public input on the benefits and drawbacks of using Title II, as earlier reports suggested. It also implies the FCC will not be able to avoid a showdown with Congress over net neutrality. Republican lawmakers are expected to introduce legislation this month to preempt any FCC rule on the subject.
Since Republicans have made clear they are opposed to regulating broadband providers under Title II, it’s looking increasingly doubtful that the issue will be put to rest anytime soon.
Wednesday, November 12
In an op-ed for the San Jose Mercury News, our Co-Chairman Larry Irving argues that when protecting net neutrality, the first job of the FCC is to ensure they do no harm. An excerpt:
The Title II path presents several potential harms. First, and most dangerous, is the harm to innovation. A light-touch regulatory environment has advanced ideas birthed in the valley. Introducing outmoded regulations on entrepreneurial business models in the tech sector could hurt the pace at which we’re seeing new start-ups, technologies, and products emerge.
A system of having to ask “Mother, may I?” of government would naturally introduce a chilling effect, as companies of all sizes would start wondering whether they or their product would be regulated. Would their products have to change to comply with regulation? Or would it be better to not introduce products to avoid regulation?
Check out Irving’s full op-ed over the San Jose Mercury News.
Tuesday, October 28
As the net neutrality debate continues to percolate, AT&T has submitted an innovative idea. As Julian Hattem of The Hill reports:
Company officials last week met with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lawyers to argue that the agency should not ban Internet “fast lanes” that individual users want placed on their service.
For instance, a business might want to give workers faster access to certain websites over others when traffic gets clogged, to incentivize employees to stay on task rather than surf the web, AT&T argued.
“To preemptively and categorically block consumers from making these types of choices over their own Internet access connection before anyone even knows what the service might look like would needlessly stifle innovation and deny consumers the ability to tailor their own Internet service to their own needs,” AT&T said in an FCC filing summarizing its meeting.
Letting users control which, if any, traffic gets priority (for instance, Netflix) has the potential to quiet the fears that mammoth companies, rather than consumers, will dictate the future of the Internet.
Wednesday, October 22
At an event yesterday in College Station, Texas, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai called for the Commission to be more transparent when it comes to the thorny issue of net neutrality. Via The Hill‘s Julian Hattem:
“I was disappointed when the FCC decided to hold each one of its recent net neutrality roundtable discussions at our Washington headquarters,” he said at the start of the forum hosted by the George Bush School of Government and Public Service. “And that’s why I wish that my colleagues were here with me today.”
“On this issue and other critical issues, the FCC shouldn’t be hiding in our nation’s capital,” he added.
Kudos to Commissioner Pai for bringing this discussion out of the Beltway himself. Regardless of which side of the net neutrality debate you fall on, we can all agree that more transparency and openness from the FCC would benefit everyone.
Thursday, October 02
There are several commonly disseminated myths aimed at perpetuating confusion and misinformation during the pendency of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Open Internet proceeding. Facts, however, cut through the clutter and allow for a discussion rooted in reality rather than rhetoric.
Title II reclassification of broadband is not necessary to preserve an Open Internet.
Here’s why the FCC can and should move forward with Open Internet rules designed under its Section 706 authority rather than reclassifying broadband services under Title II of the Communications Act:
TITLE II AND SECTION 706: Myths vs. Facts
Myth: Title II regulations helped bring about the Internet boom of the early 2000s.
Fact: Although an initial investment spike occurred immediately after the passage of the 1996 Act, that investment was short-lived. That initial spate of investment was primarily directed at technologies and business models that were quickly outstripped by more modern technologies. In fact, the majority of the investment in our country’s broadband infrastructure occurred after the FCC’s 2003-05 decisions to decrease regulations on the broadband industry. This surge in investment laid the groundwork for high-speed Internet to become a leading driver of our nation’s economic growth and to spur the incredible innovation consumers enjoy today.
Myth: Title II-like regulations helped Europe leapfrog the U.S. on broadband deployment.
Fact: Europe gave up its leadership position when it began its path toward heavy-handed regulation that deterred broadband investment and deployment.
According to an independent study, today nearly 82% of U.S. consumers enjoy access to next-generation, high-speed broadband networks (over 25Mbps) while only 54% of Europeans have comparable access. In rural areas, the U.S. again leads in access, 48% to 12%. Next-generation wireless broadband (LTE) is available to 86% of Americans but only 27% of Europeans.
European broadband policies are built on extensive, public utility-style regulation that has depressed broadband investment. In contrast, the U.S. light-touch regulation model has enabled U.S. broadband network operators to invest more than double per household than Europe does: $562 versus $244 in Europe.
Myth: Applying Title II regulations to broadband networks and providers will prevent companies from creating Internet “fast lanes”.
Fact: The FCC has stated that no ISP has ever engaged in paid prioritization schemes. No evidence exists that ISPs have ever or are likely to create fast lanes and slow lanes.
Reclassifying broadband under Title II would not prevent such. In fact, under Title II, public utilities have always been allowed to offer prioritized services. Telephone companies routinely offer installation and repair priority along with service level guarantees to those willing to pay extra money.
According to FCC Chairman Wheeler, the 2010 net neutrality rules were never intended to cover these privately-negotiated business deals, only the last mile of the Internet.
Myth: Wireless networks and wireline networks are virtually interchangeable these days and should have the same net neutrality rules.
Fact: In the 2010 rules, to which all carriers committed, the FCC stated that special characteristics of mobile broadband infrastructure make it essential to give mobile providers additional flexibility in how they manage the traffic on their networks. Due to resource constraints, such as the limited amount of spectrum available for consumer use, mobile networks operate differently than wireline networks. A stringent regulatory environment established under Title II, and intended primarily for a monopoly-era copper wireline world, would be onerous.
The FCC still imposed two conditions on wireless networks in 2010. First, wireless networks cannot block access to legal websites, with exclusions for reasonable network management. Second, wireless network providers were required to disclose their network management practices, performance and terms and conditions of their broadband services.
The current approach acknowledges how wireless networks are different from fixed networks but still protects consumers and enables investment and innovation in the intensely competitive wireless marketplace.
Myth: ISPs harm the open Internet through discriminatory practices. The only way to keep the Internet open is to reclassify Internet services as telecommunications services.
Fact: The Internet, without Title II regulations, is and has been open since its first public use. It continues to thrive in the current regulatory environment. In contrast, Title II regulation would stifle investment and hinder innovation. Innovative new services and business models would have to be vetted and approved by the FCC, slowing the Internet’s vitality and growth.
Ensuring a fair and open Internet through authority granted by Section 706 is a better path. Section 706 permits the FCC to prevent paid prioritization while encouraging innovation and investment from ISPs and other Internet companies.
Myth: Title II can be easily adapted to today’s modern communications systems.
Fact: The past 20 years have seen stunning technological advancements in the communication industry. Americans can now access a wealth of information in myriad new ways. The transformation of the communications industry has caused companies to no longer fit neatly into legal categories envisioned by the 1996 Telecommunications Act or, even more obviously, the Title II rules written in 1934. That’s why companies not normally thought of as “broadband providers” could find themselves categorized and regulated as telecommunications carriers because their service overlaps with the services provided by ISPs if Title II regulations are placed on broadband services. For example, when Google connects you to a business you searched, should it be considered subject to Title II? Or if a provider of email enables a video messaging session, would it open itself up to Title II regulation on the grounds that it is a facilities-based provider or reseller? Could be. And that’s the fear.
Myth: The FCC could apply Title II to broadband, but exercise its forbearance authority when dealing with innovative companies and services.
Fact: Reclassifying broadband services as telecommunication services under Title II would burden 1/6 of the nation’s economy with stringent, investment-inhibiting government regulation. The government would have expansive power over all broadband services, likely including all edge providers and consumer broadband applications and services. The process necessary to analyze and identify which areas of the nation’s broadband economy the FCC would spare from heavy government intrusion would be both lengthy and costly. Additional time and resources would probably be squandered in the litigation that will inevitably follow.
Myth: Unlike Title II, the FCC does not have the power to promote an open Internet under the limited provisions of Section 706.
Fact: Relying on Section 706 to protect consumers and ensure an Open Internet is a superior choice to the overbroad, utility-style Title II regulatory framework of the 1934 Communications Act.
The FCC’s Section 706-like approach in 2010, created rules that found the right balance between regulations necessary to advance consumer protection goals and the need to attract new investment to broadband to ensure future deployments of modern high-speed networks. Under those rules, access to capital grew and we saw massive growth in the digital app economy, video over broadband, VoIP, the advent of tablet computing, and the rise of mobile e-commerce.
Moreover, a Federal Appeals court has given Section 706 its seal of approval and the FCC can assert this authority with confidence. In fact, the courts have said that the FCC is empowered to create rules “governing broadband providers’ treatment of Internet traffic…that they will preserve and facilitate the “virtuous circle” of innovation that has driven the explosive growth of the Internet.”
The facts are clear: Reclassification of broadband under Title II is unnecessary to ensure continued Internet openness and would backfire with harmful consequences for innovation and investment. The FCC should instead make use of its powers under Section 706 to protect consumers, promote innovation and encourage nationwide deployment of next-generation broadband.
Wednesday, September 17
Speaking of net neutrality, over at USA Today, Jeff Pulver makes the case that the government can look out for consumers with onerous new rules:
The heavy hand of the early 20th Century rules is not necessary to protect an open Internet, and the benefit of the more modern “information services” classification approach is that it doesn’t kill off the investment needed to continue modernizing our Internet infrastructure. As FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the courts have suggested, other provisions in the act provide ample authority for the FCC to protect consumers from potential anti-competitive conduct.
We should do everything to protect the open Internet – no one argues that. But we are doing the American public a disservice if we insist that the only path to that end is a Title II regulatory approach. If we go down that dead-end road and turn the Internet into a regulated public utility, we will ignore the lessons learned a decade ago in the process that led to the “Pulver Order” and choke off a new wave of innovation and investment that will support the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Among the tidal wave of comments the FCC has received over the open Internet/Title II issue, Fred Campbell of the Center for Boundless Innovation in Technology finds something interesting. As he writes:
A stunning revelation is buried in a lengthy Netflix filing at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC): Netflix used its subscribers as pawns in a Machiavellian game of regulatory chess designed to win favorable Internet regulations.
The filing reveals that Netflix knowingly slowed down its video streaming service with the intention of blaming Internet service providers (ISPs). Specifically, Netflix used its relationships with Internet ‘backbone’ providers (e.g., Level 3, Cogent) to deliberately congest their peering links with ISPs, and at the same time, started publishing ‘ISP speed rankings’ to make it appear that ISPs were causing the congestion. It appears that Netflix cynically held its subscribers hostage to reduced service quality in order to pressure the FCC into adopting favorable Internet regulations that would permanently lower Netflix’s costs of doing business.
Netflix’s plan to frame ISPs for sabotaging its service has been surprisingly successful so far. Some subscribers have blamed their ISPs for the service disruptions Netflix itself caused, which prompted the FCC to open an investigation of the Internet backbone market. Now all Netflix needs is for the FCC to adopt new regulations.
At the very least, Campbell’s post should serve as a reminder that in the current version of the seemingly never-ending “net neutrality debate,” it’s not really little guys vs. big guys, but one big tangled mess of special interests and corporations. All the more reason for the FCC to move forward without extreme caution.