App Providers Will Win, ISPs Won't Lose Big Under Future FCC Net Neutrality Rules

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No rules are better than these rules, Netflix argues in its filing on proposed Federal Communications Commission network neutrality rules, reiterating a call for Title II regulation, which would be a historic and major change of framework.

AT&T has argued recently that Title II rules are unnecessary and would, in any case, not prevent practices network neutrality supporters oppose.

Title II common carrier regulation represent the polar opposite positions in the present network neutrality rulemaking.  

One might argue the FCC has asked for public input on reclassifying broadband access a common carrier service for a mix of reasons. There is a legitimate question about how the Internet access function should be regulated.

On the other hand, there are “political reasons” as well, one might argue. By enlarging the possible scope of outcomes, the FCC preserves more room for compromise “in the middle” of the debate.

Though Netflix wants common carrier regulation, the major Internet service providers will oppose it. That leaves room for a compromise that maintains “best effort” access as the consumer service pattern, barring packet prioritization schemes.

Treatment of mobile Internet access is an outstanding issue, but perhaps the major point is the FCC has political room to move towards a compromise by declining to shift Internet access regulation to a common carrier format, but maintaining what Google might call a “light touch” approach that maintains the “best effort only” framework for consumer Internet access.

As always, the public positions stake out negotiating positions, in addition to reflecting the perceived business interests of Internet participants. ISPs really oppose common carrier regulation.

And though Netflix might prefer common carrier regulation, it would obviously be happy if the former “no quality of experience” mechanisms, was the future framework.

In other words, the threat of dire action makes acceptance of “no packet prioritization” policies more palatable to ISPs, while achieving what many net neutrality supporters still prefer.

That provides political cover for the FCC to craft rules that preserve its approach to net neutrality.

By essentially moving the goalposts further apart (common carrier regulation on one hand and no effective best effort access rules on the other), the FCC will ultimately have more room to craft a compromise that leaves both sides with something they can live with.




Edited by Maurice Nagle

Contributing Editor

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