Netflix filed a comment with the FCC yesterday strongly condemning the commission's new net neutrality proposal, which would allow internet service providers to offer so-called "fast lanes" to companies that can afford them. "No rules would be better than rules legalizing discrimination on the internet," Netflix writes in a lengthy reply to the FCC. Netflix argues that the new rules will turn the goal of an open internet "on its head," making the internet look more like the convoluted and stagnating cable TV landscape than the innovative and quickly developing platform that we've come to see the internet as.
"The Internet is at a crossroads."
Allowing internet fast lanes, Netflix argues, would let service providers choose which websites, companies, and apps succeed online, rather than allowing consumers to choose as they do now. Netflix believes that the FCC's proposal will effectively given internet service providers control over what their subscribers can and cannot see online.
"The Internet is at a crossroads," Netflix writes. "Down one road — a road defined by the commission’s failure to put in place meaningful open internet rules — is an internet that looks more like cable TV, one characterized by legalized discrimination, carriage disputes, gamesmanship, and content blackouts which harms consumers. Down another road is a scalable, more affordable, and open internet built on strong network neutrality rules and a policy of settlement-free interconnection to last mile ISP network."
Naturally, Netflix is arguing for net neutrality protections on interconnection as well as for protections over the internet's "last mile" — what happens between an service provider and a subscriber's home — which is what's classically been under debate. Correctly or not, Netflix has been trying to conflate these two issues as one, arguing that allowing ISPs to charge tolls to content providers like itself is just as problematic and prohibitive as allowing fast lanes.
"Threaten to undermine this country’s, if not the world’s, most important platform"
Over the past several months, Netflix has been claiming that internet providers' ability to do charge it interconnect tolls is leading to congestion on the internet. Adding in internet fast lanes on top of that, Netflix argues, would only exacerbate the issue. However, the FCC has said that it isn't interested in regulating interconnects, so it seems unlikely that the commission would take this up in the next version of its proposal based on Netflix's urging alone.
Netflix is also pushing for the FCC to classify internet services under Title II, which would allow it to enforce stronger net neutrality regulations than it can today. The commission hasn't done so largely for political reasons — namely, that internet service providers would be deeply unhappy about it — but net neutrality advocates have been arguing that it's the sensible, and potentially the only, way to go.
The FCC's initial comment period on its controversial net neutrality proposal closes at midnight on Friday, and it's so far received over 780,000 comments. Netflix's is a critical addition, as the popular streaming service has very much served as a proxy for the public's disdain for internet service providers. Beyond that, Netflix serves as the type of success story that many believe would not be repeatable in a world without net neutrality. As Netflix puts it, this current net neutrality proposal "raises serious concerns that threaten to undermine this country’s, if not the world’s, most important platform for economic growth, innovation, and competition."