The FCC is dealing the internet away, opening the door to network discrimination


Today, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman, Tom Wheeler circulated a proposal for new rules on network neutrality that could allow internet service providers (ISP) to charge content providers and other companies different prices to reach customers at different speeds and crackdown on “commercially unreasonable” practices. The proposal follows on the heels of a D.C. Circuit Court opinion striking down the FCC’s net neutrality provisions.

“Commercially reasonable is just another way of saying discrimination is ok if it makes a company money,” said Jochai Ben-Avie, Policy Director at Access, warning “If this proposal goes forward, ISPs will be able to triple charge for their services, and in doing so kill innovation, strangle competition, and ultimately restrict freedom of expression online.”

ISPs already “double dip,” charging users internet access and Content Delivery Networks (CDN) to move internet traffic through their networks. Access warns that allowing “pay to play” arrangements, will allow ISPs to “triple dip” by charging three times to provide a single service. Such a policy will provide already powerful ISPs with a new internet monopoly: access to their customers. For example (if this new proposal passes), ISPs will be able to charge consumers, charge CDNs and backbone providers, and a third (new) charge for content providers (such as Netflix, Google, or Amazon) in order to reach users. This will ultimately encourage network discrimination, and artificially restricting the innovation and creativity that makes the internet great.

“Instead of placing unnecessary tolls on the internet highway, the FCC should catch up to the E.U. and other countries and enforce strong non-discrimination principles to ensure that the internet remains a dynamic platform for free expression, creation, and economic growth,” said Raegan MacDonald, European Policy Manager at Access.

Contrary to the FCC, the E.U. Parliament recently took action to protect net neutrality and innovation without permission. This week, Brazil followed suit, finalizing an “internet bill of rights” containing similar non-discrimination principles.

“Instead of this proposal, the FCC needs to move forward with the path outlined by the D.C. Circuit: reclassify ISPs as common carriers and protect the open internet,” continued Ben-Avie.