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Cybersecurity & Standards

CDT Reply Comments in the Matter of Broadband Industry Practices

Many of the comments submitted by broadband providers and related industry groups focus primarily on arguing against the idea of neutrality-focused regulations. While CDT believes that many of these arguments are overstated or ignore the equally serious risks of providing no governmental guidance in this area, CDT agrees that it would not be appropriate for the Commission on its own authority to devise and impose a regulatory regime mandating neutrality.

At the same time, however, there is no basis for dismissing the risk that certain types of discriminatory treatment of traffic by network operators could undermine competition, innovation, and free expression on the Internet.  The initial round of comments suggests that network operators may place significant importance on maintaining the ability to prioritize traffic and depart from the largely “bill-and-keep” fee model that has prevailed on the Internet to date.  As CDT outlined at length in its previous comments, such practices could raise significant concerns under some circumstances.  Whatever one thinks about the debate over regulation, careful ongoing monitoring by the Commission and clear disclosure by broadband providers when they engage in differential treatment of traffic remain important safeguards.

Nor do the arguments against regulation provide any serious reason to refrain from adding to the Commission’s broadband Policy Statement a nondiscrimination principle along the lines of what CDT suggested in its comments. The principles have neither the detailed specificity nor the enforceable status of true rules, so most of the arguments against regulation simply do not apply.  While this limits the legal protection the principles provide, a nondiscrimination principle nonetheless could play the useful role of sending a signal that discriminatory practices merit scrutiny and that the Commission seeks to promote and protect the full range of characteristics that have made the Internet uniquely open to innovation, competition, and speech.