The FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed to end net neutrality–while claiming to uphold it. Comcast and AT&T unsurprisingly support the Chairman’s proposal, even though they have fought net neutrality for over a decade, tooth and nail. So that should probably tell you all you need to know about the Chairman’s proposal. Oh, also millions of Americans, hundreds of companies, venture investors, churches, and consumer groups and democracy activists stridently oppose the Chairman’s proposal.
Indeed, you can look at the proposal’s language: it authorizes for ISPs “negotiating individualized, differentiated arrangements with similarly situated edge providers.” That is legal-speak for: ISPs congesting their networks then discriminating technically, creating fast lanes and auctioning them off to large companies, while leaving everyone else in a crappy slow lane and killing startup innovation and jobs. (At least, that’s what over 1 million people are saying.) Chairman Wheeler is actually resting his proposal on a part of the law (called Section 706 of the 1996 Telecom Act) that requires giving the ISPs “substantial room for … discrimination in terms” and simply cannot “bar broadband providers from charging” websites for fast lanes. Meaning, you can’t do net neutrality under Section 706–you can only authorize discrimination and new tolls.
Hundreds of companies have made it clear they don’t want a world of individualized deals and slow lanes, but the Chairman’s office seems to insist that people specifically point to Title II (the part of the law that he should use instead of Section 706) as the essential evidence of disagreement with the Chairman proposal. That’s a little odd–it’s very clear, for example, that the Internet Association Comments (an association of the largest tech companies) is deeply opposed to almost every facet of the Chairman’s proposal, from his exempting mobile and interconnection to permitting discrimination and paid prioritization. The Internet Association is just focusing on substance, not jurisdiction, in its comments.
Nonetheless, I have been keeping a list of companies that have filed something in the FCC docket specifically and explicitly calling on the FCC to rely on Title II not Section 706. If you have more, please let me know.
- Y Combinator
- Union Square Ventures
- General Assembly
- Opera Software ASA
- Warby Parker