Monday, March 16, 2015

FCC’s Title II order adopts ultra light touch on net neutrality enforcement

While much of the media has been abuzz over the concept of net neutrality – the principle that all Internet traffic be treated equally – an initial review of the FCC’s report and order issued last week classifying Internet services as telecommunications services under Title II of the Communications Act indicates the regulatory agency is adopting a decidedly light touch approach on enforcing net neutrality. The question of whether net neutrality is being respected has arisen at interconnection between network layers, choke points specifically addressed in the FCC’s order and report.

Paragraph 4 states the order’s policy respecting net neutrality, described in the media as a ban on network providers creating paid fast lanes, drawing on the metaphor of toll lanes on a busy freeway:

4. The lesson of this period, and the overwhelming consensus on the record, is that  carefully-tailored rules to protect Internet openness will allow investment and innovation to continue to flourish. Consistent with that experience and the record built in this proceeding, today we adopt carefully-tailored rules that would prevent specific practices we know are harmful to Internet openness— blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization—as well as a strong standard of conduct designed to prevent the deployment of new practices that would harm Internet openness. We also enhance our transparency rule to ensure that consumers are fully informed as to whether the services they purchase are delivering what they expect.

Paragraph 30 however specifically declines to apply Title II rules to interconnection, noting frictions among commercial players have produced differing accounts of how Internet data traffic is being handled:

30. But this Order does not apply the open Internet rules to interconnection. Three factors  are critical in informing this approach to interconnection. First, the nature of Internet traffic, driven by massive consumption of video, has challenged traditional arrangements—placing more emphasis on the use of CDNs or even direct connections between content providers (like Netflix or Google) and last-mile broadband providers. Second, it is clear that consumers have been subject to degradation resulting from commercial disagreements, perhaps most notably in a series of disputes between Netflix and large last-mile broadband providers. But, third, the causes of past disruption and—just as importantly—the potential for future degradation through interconnection disputes—are reflected in very different narratives in the record.

At paragraph 31 of the order, the FCC opts for an information gathering stance vis a vis disputes over interconnection rather than a strong enforcement role:

31. While we have more than a decade’s worth of experience with last-mile practices, we lack a similar depth of background in the Internet traffic exchange context. Thus, we find that the best approach is to watch, learn, and act as required, but not intervene now, especially not with prescriptive rules. This Order—for the first time—provides authority to consider claims involving interconnection, a process that is sure to bring greater understanding to the Commission.

1 comment:

InfoStack said...

The interconnection issue is not fully addressed or resolved because the FCC does not want to take up a debate between vertically integrated edge access providers and horizontally scaled core content and app providers.

Because Netflix can observe edge demand in a geographic region completely across fixed networks and partially across mobile networks they are in a better position to determine layer 1-2 and 3 tradeoffs and where to concentrate intelligence/content most cost effectively vis a vis that demand.

By not addressing where this WAN/MAN demarc can or should be the FCC has failed in a very major way. Every since Kingsbury it's been about where this demarc should be and how layers 1-2 are shared.

And this has huge implications on scale economies and costs for rural users; both fixed and mobile.

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