The US FCC's new net neutrality gambit

Rob Powell/Telecom Ramblings
04 Nov 2014
00:00

OK, I’m still trying to make sense of the report late last week in the Wall Street Journal of a new plan gaining strength at the FCC to take care of the net neutrality issue. The details are vague at best, but it’s hard to imagine too many supporters lining up from either side. Maybe that’s a good thing.

So the idea is to split net neutrality in half, and tackle the wholesale carrier/content provider side one way and the ‘retail’ side the other way. Presumably business and enterprises are ‘retail’ in this equation, and the whole question of wireless versus wired wasn’t discussed.

On the wholesale side, common carrier would be the paradigm. That would let the FCC step into the peering/transit disputes as needed. It makes some logical sense, and could be a major victory for transit networks and content providers, which have been lobbying to prevent the last mile operators from manipulating interconnection upgrades to force payment. Assuming of course that the FCC actually would flex that muscle now and then.

But on the retail side, there would apparently be no ban on paid prioritization, fast lanes, or whatever you want to call it. Net neutrality in the last mile would be pretty much dead as originally envisioned, with the FCC promising to prevent ‘harmful discrimination’. The burden of proof would be on the service provider to justify such plans, although the legal teams employed by the big last mile operators are quite skilled in that regard as we all know. Hence, this would be a major victory for the carriers.

Consumer advocates aren’t going to like it much at all.

That is, if it were an actual plan right now. But it’s not. It’s a twinkle in Tom Wheeler’s eye, and what the WSJ article represents is your basic trial balloon. It’ll get popped shortly, I’m sure. That’s what trial balloons are for.

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