The Internet Association, which counts Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Netflix among its members, told US regulator FCC it must treat mobile and fixed networks the same when it comes to net neutrality.
“Segregation of the internet into fast lanes and slow lanes will distort the market, discourage innovation and harm internet users,” said Michael Beckerman, the association’s CEO. “The FCC must act to create strong, enforceable net neutrality rules and apply them equally to both wireless and wireline providers.”
The US telecoms regulator has been bombarded by comments from the public since it started a consultation period earlier this year about its revised open internet proposals.
FCC suffered a blow in January when a DC Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the commission’s authority to lay down and enforce net neutrality rules enshrined in its Open Internet Order (2010).
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler then came up with a revised proposal – Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet – but net neutrality supporters, including the Internet Association, were not satisfied. They objected to the prospect of ISPs preferentially treating some web content on the back of FCC sanctioning deals with content providers on the vague-sounding basis of “commercially reasonable”.
The Internet Association’s championing of “simple, light-touch rules to ensure that the internet remains open, dynamic and spontaneous” looks a last-minute attempt to steer FCC away from what it sees as a green light to a two-tier internet. FCC’s 120-day consultation period ends today (15 July).
In its 25-page statement to the commission, the Internet Association argued there was now no need to give mobile networks more leeway on net neutrality than fixed networks (which the 2010 Open Internet Order did) because “wireless broadband has matured as a platform”.
While the original order banned mobile broadband providers from blocking or degrading access to rival voice and video telephony services (deemed primary offerings from mobile players), FCC let mobile operators off the hook when it came to applying the no unreasonable discrimination rule (applied to fixed networks).
This greater flexibility, said the association, left the door open for mobile broadband providers to discriminate against applications that don’t compete against their “primary services” (voice and video telephony), just by citing vague and opaque grounds of network management.
The association argues the commission should now apply “uniform non-discrimination, no-blocking and transparency rules to wireline and wireless intrenet access providers”, and that there is no further reason to differentiate between the two platforms in applying the rules.
To the extent that mobile networks are constrained by bandwidth, the Internet Association believes the commission’s existing exception for “reasonable network management” provides sufficient flexibility.