Verizon Unintentionally Provides a New Path for Better Net Neutrality Rules

by Matt Klassen on October 23, 2014

Verizon’s legal fight against Net Neutrality has unintentionally paved the way forward for the cause of the Open Internet, much to the chagrin of the rest of the broadband industry.

In 2010 Verizon took issue with the fledgling Net Neutrality framework proposed by the Federal Communications Commission; so much so, in fact, that the Internet service provider sued the FCC over the mandate that ISPs must treat all Internet traffic equally. Earlier this year a Washington D.C. Court of Appeals agreed with Verizon and struck down the Net Neutrality rules, sending the FCC back to the drawing board with a recommendation on how to create a framework that would be legally enforceable. I bet Verizon regrets that now.

But if service providers took issue with the original Net Neutrality standards, the revised standards the FCC has now developed—a way forward that was presented to the Commission as the result of its legal defeat by Verizon—must look like a veritable nightmare, as now the FCC is threatening to reclassify broadband Internet as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act and this time include wireless broadband service in its rules as well. Good news for users, bad news for ISPs.

It’s no wonder then, that reports indicate the rest of the broadband industry is secretly furious with Verizon, wishing the telecom giant would have left well enough alone, instead of driving the FCC back to the drawing board to create legally-based restrictive policies that will be easier to enforce and harder to resist.

As Brendan Sasso of the National Journal explains, “The FCC first enacted net-neutrality regulations in 2010 that barred home broadband providers from blocking or “unreasonably” discriminating against any Internet traffic. Cell-phone providers couldn’t outright block websites, but they were free to speed up or slow down certain services or exempt others from monthly data caps.”

At the time the rules were seen as not going far enough, a compromise that still gave ISPs considerable leeway when it came to network management, and rules that excluded wireless regulation entirely. In fact, the rules were seen as neutered of all clout by many Internet activists, not going far enough to protect a free and open Internet for all.

But for Verizon the rules were simply unacceptable, taking the FCC to court over Net Neutrality, with the court ruling in Verizon’s favour because Net Neutrality had no legal basis over Internet, at least until it would be reclassified as a telecommunications service. It’s that discovery, emerging from the legal ruling, that has helped the FCC chart a new course for Net Neutrality, one that seeks to reclassify all Internet services as telecommunications services, a move that would impose far more restrictions and industry management than the original proposal from the FCC ever would have.

So let me be the first to say, “Thanks Verizon, your greed and stubbornness have done more for the cause of Net Neutrality than activists and the FCC ever could. It has provided a fresh way forward for a proposal that was spinning its wheels and your desire to strike it down has helped the FCC discover the legal footing it has needed since it first introduced the concept of Net Neutrality.” No wonder the broadband industry is frustrated with Big Red.

While no other internet service provider has publicly criticized Verizon, as Sasso reports, “privately, lobbyists grumble that they wouldn’t be in this mess if Verizon had just accepted the old rules.” Although these same lobbyists are gearing up to once again challenge the authority of the FCC and Net Neutrality, it looks like their fight will be much more difficult, as finally the quest for a free and open Internet has found some traction. Thanks again Verizon!

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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