Posted by: Jim Cicconi on June 6, 2014 at 10:15 am
I saw last month’s House Commerce hearing with Chairman Wheeler and was struck once again by the animated discussion revolving around “paid prioritization,” “fast lanes/slow lanes,” and Section 706 authority versus Title II regulation. The debate feels a bit like the movie Groundhog Day… we’ve all been here before. And just as in 2010, there doesn’t seem to be a common understanding of “paid prioritization,” the FCC’s 706 authority, or the scope of Title II regulation.
So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to cut through some of the current debate by starting with the common understandings we all reached in 2010 after years of argument. Let’s begin with “paid prioritization.” According to Free Press, there were three troubling “discriminatory business models” that could create fast lanes and slow lanes on the Internet:
• “Pay-for-Play” – where an ISP might refuse to carry content unless the content company pays them “additional fees above normal transit costs.”
• “Pay-for-Priority” – where edge providers might pay ISPs for prioritizing traffic on the consumer’s broadband Internet access service.
• “Vertical Prioritization” – where an ISP might prioritize its own vertical content and services on the user’s broadband Internet access service.
In 2010, many of us noted that the net neutrality debate revolved around unlikely hypotheticals, not any actual, pending or contemplated actions. Mind you, not a single ISP then or now has asserted a desire or right to engage in any of these practices to create “fast lanes and slow lanes.” AT&T certainly has no plans or intent to change its position on this.
Once we were able to ground the net neutrality debate in facts and a common understanding of the problem we were trying to solve, the result was the 2010 FCC Order, which created rules the Commission asserted would virtually ban such services. AT&T, and nearly every other ISP, supported those rules. In addition, pursuant to a transparency rule — which was affirmed by the Verizon court — every ISP posted on their websites Statements of Broadband Practices demonstrating their compliance with the FCC rules (ours can be found here). Pursuant to the Verizon opinion, the FCC can enforce those statements and require ISPs to perform their network management consistent with them. More recently, as part of pending mergers, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and AT&T reinforced those commitments by promising to continue operating our networks consistent with the 2010 Rules and our current Statements of Broadband Practices, which, again, the FCC can require us to follow.