Where is the Greatest Threat to Internet Openness?

July 28, 2014
By: Gary Kim

Regulatory attorneys are always required to advance the strongest-possible arguments in favor of their firm’s or client’s interests, when the Federal Communications Commission or any other regulatory body is considering new rules.

So it is not surprising that Time Warner (News - Alert) Cable’s filing with the FCC regarding notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on the “Open Internet” opposes Title II regulation of access services, argues that fixed and mobile ISPs should be subject to the same rules, or argues network interconnection should not be included in the rules.

Cable companies traditionally have opposed common carrier regulation. And as a competitive issue, cable companies would not want mobile ISPs to have an edge. Time Warner Cable (TWC) also opposes extension of new regulations for network interconnection, which traditionally has been a matter of business relationships between network owners.

The novel idea is TWC’s suggestion that all potential threats to openness in the ecosystem be examined, including the role of large content or app providers who also could threaten openness.

“The NPRM fails to acknowledge that the real — and growing — threat to Internet openness continues to be posed by entities other than broadband Internet access providers,” TWC argues.

Time Warner Cable’s suggestions are unlikely to have any effect, as the language of the NPRM already notes that although “other forms of discrimination in the Internet ecosystem may exist … such conduct is beyond the scope of this proceeding.”

Some might find the Time Warner Cable suggestion unusual. But it is the sort of perspective one might expect from a provider of third-party content, accustomed to fierce negotiations with those partners.

“Several large-edge providers have not only the ability to restrict access to online content and services, but also troubling track records of doing so,” TWC argues.

What Time Warner Cable might be suggesting is that large app and content providers have as much “incentive” to restrict “openness” for commercial advantage.

“The NPRM overlooks the reality that large-edge providers often have far more market leverage than a broadband ISP. There is no sound reason to single out broadband Internet access providers and exclude other sources of harm from the scope of any rules,” TWC argues.




Edited by Rory J. Thompson