Banning Paid Prioritization within a Viable and Sustainable Framework

Posted by: Bob Quinn on July 17, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Today, we filed comments at the FCC supporting the Commission’s attempt to re-craft the net neutrality rules that were vacated by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Verizon v. FCC.  In short, we have laid out a viable and sustainable framework utilizing Section 706 of the 1996 Telecom Act, which re-establishes the balance achieved by the 2010 Open Internet Order, including banning paid prioritization – where an ISP prioritizes packets over the consumer’s last mile broadband Internet access service without being directed to perform that prioritization by the consumer.  Paid prioritization has been at the heart of the net neutrality debate since it began in earnest over a decade ago (AT&T has blogged several times on this point in earlier iterations of this debate).  We disagree with those critics who claim that the Commission cannot ban paid prioritization under Section 706 and explain why they are wrong as well as why it would be much more difficult to justify a similar ban of paid prioritization under Title II.

AT&T also supported the FCC’s 2010 rules, including the ones which were ultimately vacated by the Verizon court.  We recognized then, and now, that those rules represented a purposeful and careful balance between ensuring the openness of the Internet and promoting the continued massive infrastructure investments necessary to deliver to American consumers the ever increasing amount of bandwidth needed by the enormously innovative products and services being created in technology communities across the United States.  The FCC reached this balance by utilizing a form of light touch regulation under Section 706 rather than decades-old Title II utility regulation requirements – requirements that would actually impose barriers to broadband infrastructure investment in contravention of Section 706.

History itself tells us that the FCC’s balanced, light touch approach was the right approach because it actually worked.  As the FCC has noted, from 2009 onwards, wireline and wireless broadband providers have invested more than $250 billion in broadband infrastructure.  On the other side of the equation, the Internet has remained open and consumers have accessed a dizzying array of new content, services and applications.  That is the environment that every public policymaker should want to preserve.

Since 2010, broadband adoption and subscriber speeds have increased dramatically.  Today, we are on the edge of wide expansion of fiber-to-the-home broadband infrastructure that delivers 1 GB broadband speeds.  The U.S. 4G LTE wireless broadband infrastructure is the envy of the world.  In short, the broadband networks that have been created and expanded as a result of the Commission’s 2010 approach to net neutrality are an important part of the innovation fabric that has delivered so many innovative new services to consumers.  So, as in 2010, we will once again support the FCC in preserving the balanced, light-touch regulatory framework that has delivered these enormous consumer benefits.  And this time, AT&T believes the FCC can fashion viable and sustainable rules that will keep the US in the forefront of the broadband world.

Comments (2)

This is a good example of how sensible regulation of a private industry like the internet can have impressive results and I believe that proper regulation is key for keeping our private sector in check.

Zachary White July 18, 2014 at 8:17 am

It is true that the story as told above does seem sensible, but the story above ignores the context that the broadband infrastructure in the U.S. (while it has improved) lags behind many European and Asian countries where transport and content are separate. Broadband access in many parts of the world (that are more heavily regulated) is faster, more reliable and cheaper than in the U.S. so claiming that the lack of regulation thus far has helped U.S. investment goes against the current state of the networks and claiming additional separation (or regulation) between transit and content would harm investment is also contradicted by history and current practice.
The simple solution of separating transit from content is the only way to continue to have an Internet that can continue to grow and innovate.

Larry Mills-Gahl February 25, 2015 at 12:31 pm

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