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America's biggest internet providers urge FCC not to turn their networks into public utilities

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Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, and AT&T all agree, which can't be good news

The nation's biggest telecommunications providers, including Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, are urging the FCC to ignore the growing outcry to reclassify and regulate the internet as a public utility. The cable companies instead want FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to stick to his original plan, one that would avoid that Title II reclassification of the internet and allow ISPs to charge other companies for increased speed on their networks — a move widely viewed as something that would tear down the fundamental principles of net neutrality.

"In recent days, we have witnessed a concerted publicity campaign by some advocacy groups seeking sweeping government regulation that conflates the need for an open Internet with the purported need to reclassify broadband Internet access services as Title II telecommunications services subject to common carrier regulation," the ISPs write in today's letter (PDF). "As demonstrated repeatedly, the future of the open internet has nothing to do with Title II regulation, and Title II has nothing to do with the open Internet. As it did in 2010, the commission should categorically reject efforts to equate the two once and for all."

"The future of the open Internet has nothing to do with Title II regulation, and Title II has nothing to do with the open Internet."

The rationale behind this argument is that reclassifying the internet would stifle investments and job creation, leaving us with a worse internet than we have right now. "Reclassification of broadband internet access offerings as Title II 'telecommunications services' would impose great costs, allowing unprecedented government micromanagement of all aspects of the internet economy," the letter states. It also claims that Title II classification actually doesn't "discourage — let alone outlaw" the paid prioritization models that net neutrality supporters are rallying around. Indeed, the letter paints a dark picture of consumers with less choice and less innovation from entrepreneurs: "An era of differentiation, innovation, and experimentation would be replaced with a series of 'Government may I?' requests," the letter states.

It's not terribly surprising to see this strong statement come from the nation's ISPs — the last few weeks have seen a massive push to get Chairman Wheeler to reconsider the proposal first announced in late April that would allow the ISPs to implement these paid "fast lanes." Some of the biggest technology companies in the world, including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook came out strongly against that original proposal, while a number of top technology investorscelebrities, and US senators also expressed their opposition for Wheeler's initial plan.

It was only a matter of time before the ISPs that would benefit from this proposal came out in favor of it, but for now it's all just posturing — the real test will come when the proposal officially comes up for review on Thursday. It appears that Wheeler may already be changing his mind about his original plan — a report earlier this week claimed that a revised proposal could include language to prohibit these "fast lanes," though it's unclear if he'll use Title II to do so.