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Verizon, The Unintended Catalyst Of Strong Net Neutrality Laws (Op Ed)

Back in 2006, Google began fighting for net neutrality, fearing that Verizon and AT&T could start blocking competing services. However, when Verizon became an important partner for Android, Google allied with Verizon to write and propose some rules for net neutrality that left few consumer protections for wireless customers. Most of the net neutrality protections in their proposal would apply only to cable customers.

Google's and Verizon's argument then was that wireless networks were still much slower than cable Internet and had lower capacity, and therefore the carriers had to do more aggressive traffic management to provide a better service.

Soon after Google's and Verizon's proposal, the FCC passed the Open Internet Order (pdf) that looked quite similar to what the two companies had proposed, but it didn't make Verizon happy. As both a broadband Internet provider and a wireless carrier, Verizon didn't like the rule that said it can't block the services or apps it wants. Therefore, it challenged the FCC's statutory authority to regulate the ISPs in court.

Because the FCC had previously classified ISPs under Title I of the Communications Act of 1934, rather than Title II, the court agreed with Verizon last year that the FCC couldn't regulate ISPs as if they were common carriers. Of course, Verizon was thrilled with the result then, but little did the company know that the lawsuit would spark a chain of events that could now force Verizon and other carriers to abide by many more consumer protections than the 2010 Open Internet Order did.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recently announced the "strongest" net neutrality plan ever proposed by the agency. Not only that, but all of the new rules and consumer protections will fully apply to wireless carriers, as well. At this point, Verizon may be wishing it had never attempted to question the FCC's authority at all, because that's what is now causing the FCC to reclassify carriers and ISPs under Title 2 as common carriers.

Neither Verizon nor AT&T seem to accept the decision, which isn't surprising, and they both threatened to sue the FCC soon after Wheeler made public his plan. However, this time, it should be much more difficult for Verizon and AT&T to win in court, because the agency did exactly what the previous court said that it needed to do in order to properly regulate the Internet providers: reclassify them under Title 2.

The other two options for the carriers are to convince three of the FCC members to side with them. The FCC is split 3:2 politically right now, favoring net neutrality, and there's little chance for that to change by the time this net neutrality issue is decided later this month.

The other option would be to get the Republican-dominated House and Senate to pass a law that would stop the FCC from heavily regulating the carriers. Although the vast majority of Americans, regardless of their political inclinations, seem to support net neutrality, it is possible that such a law could pass. However, it's unlikely that it will have very strong majority support in Congress, so President Obama, who already asked for strong net neutrality laws a few months ago, would veto it.

Nothing is certain until the whole situation settles, but right now there's a strong chance that Wheeler's net neutrality rules are going to pass and are going to stick, possibly even with a Republican president if Internet users once again show strong support for the issue.

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  • yoji
    I don't understand.. Verizon don't have a leg to stand on?
    If (for example) they sell 50Mbps to their customers.. how can they complain if their customers want to use services that use all of that? What they seem to be doing.. is selling it at 50Mbps and then complaining that they need throttle.. as they can only cope with 30Mbps? So they oversold? how is that our problem?
    So with net neutrality.. they cant throttle and so they cant oversell.. and so people can really see who can deliver on the services they sell an hold providers to account accordingly.
    Or have I misunderstood?
    Cheers

    Reply
  • Craig Herberg
    It seems carriers want to charge twice for the same bandwidth: Once for your 50Mbs service plan, and again when you actually use it -- for example when you stream Netflix content. Of course, they only want to throttle -- or charge extra for using -- competing services. Craig Herberg
    Reply
  • sykozis
    Verizon sells 50Mbps service. You can use that full 50Mbps service. They just want complete control over what you can use that 50Mbps service for. They also want the ability to charge content providers (such as Netflix) for your ability to access their content.
    Reply
  • skit75
    They also would like to continue to snoop on the bandwidth packets you are using to see if they offer a similar service/app and then funnel their advertising at you while throttling the competitor.
    Reply
  • alextheblue
    They also want the ability to charge content providers (such as Netflix) for your ability to access their content.
    It seems carriers want to charge twice for the same bandwidth

    No. They only charge Netflix to host Netflix on Verizon's network. That's what the agreements were really all about. Netflix was having problems with Cogent and they either chose to ignore this fact and blame ISPs, or they were too stupid to realize that Cogent was actually throttling them during peak hours.

    Verizon and Comcast were blamed, when the fault really lay with Netflix and Cogent.

    What's really hilarious about this? If net neutrality passes the ISPs lose control over their own networks. When they become flooded by ever-increasing HD video streaming, it means they can't throttle Netflix et al and so other higher-priority traffic suffers. Real-time gaming packets? Oh treat them the same as email or Netflix packets. Yet many ignorant Americans think Net Neutrality is some kind wonderful panacea to a problem that never really existed in the first place!
    Reply
  • alextheblue
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/larrydownes/2014/11/25/how-netflix-poisoned-the-net-neutrality-debate/
    Reply
  • computertech82
    Sad there are brain deads against net neutraility. Like it's ok for internet providers to overcharge or even BLOCK you from websites!!!!!!!!
    Reply
  • Brandon Burkett
    @Alextheblue
    I'm guessing your either an ISP Shill or just flat out ignorant. Packet Shaping is NOT equal to Packet Blocking or Packet Discrimination. Real time, in-order packet delivery, QOS or time sensitive packet prioritization is not what Net Neutrality is, troll. ISP's must treat each packet equal, with no preference to their own service and allow any packet in or out as required by law. Net Neutrality prevents ISP's from screwing you over and leads to a full open internet.

    At no time has this ever been about anything less. Your VOIP calls will still be fine, your gaming packets will be fine, and your Netflix will be fine, troll, all at the same time. Nice try, though.
    Reply
  • JD88
    Saying companies like Verizon should be able to throttle some data in favor of "high priority" data when the network becomes overloaded is nonsense. If the network is saturated, they need to stop advertising for new customers or (gasp!) actually spend some of that fat profit on infrastructure.
    Reply
  • yoji
    15235005 said:
    They also want the ability to charge content providers (such as Netflix) for your ability to access their content.
    It seems carriers want to charge twice for the same bandwidth

    No. They only charge Netflix to host Netflix on Verizon's network. That's what the agreements were really all about. Netflix was having problems with Cogent and they either chose to ignore this fact and blame ISPs, or they were too stupid to realize that Cogent was actually throttling them during peak hours.

    Verizon and Comcast were blamed, when the fault really lay with Netflix and Cogent.

    What's really hilarious about this? If net neutrality passes the ISPs lose control over their own networks. When they become flooded by ever-increasing HD video streaming, it means they can't throttle Netflix et al and so other higher-priority traffic suffers. Real-time gaming packets? Oh treat them the same as email or Netflix packets. Yet many ignorant Americans think Net Neutrality is some kind wonderful panacea to a problem that never really existed in the first place!

    Seriously? How is that debate? It sound simple to me .... customer complains = "sorry, you paying for a 10Mbps service and you trying use Netflix at same time as you trying to use FPS shooters.. you don't have bandwidth.. would you like to upgrade?"
    May be at that point you begin to see differentiation in service.. Verizin gives customer ability to prioritize service X over Y.. that's a positive customer option and wins them brownie points and customers
    THEM choosing how YOUR bandwidth is prioritised is a complete non starter,
    Just MHO.
    Cheers

    Reply