CDT filed comments today urging the FCC to fill the policy vacuum created by the January court decision overturning the agency’s 2010 open Internet (aka net neutrality) rules. One theme of our comments is that, for all the heated rhetoric around this issue, a successful and lasting open Internet policy framework would pursue, above all, the crucial goal of ensuring the continued availability of open, “plain vanilla” Internet connections on which network operators do not and cannot play favorites. Carriers could still retain flexibility to experiment with other, non-Internet offerings that feature different business models or technical architectures — what were termed “specialized services” under the 2010 rules — so long as they create additional options to ordinary Internet access and don’t displace it. In short, sound policy in this area wouldn’t be as black-and-white as it is sometimes portrayed.
Nor would it sweep in the entire Internet. Open Internet rules should be narrowly focused on services that provide connectivity to end users — the transmission “on ramps.” In today’s marketplace, that should include mobile Internet access services, since more and more consumers are regularly connecting to the Internet on a mobile basis. But it should expressly exclude the virtually limitless array of online content and services that users may choose to access via their Internet connections.
Given these goals and principles, CDT’s comments offer legal and policy analysis regarding the Commission’s two main options: reclassifying broadband as a Title II telecommunications service, or retaining existing classifications and relying on section 706, perhaps combined with a new policy focused on the “edge-facing” component of carriers’ services (“edge-facing” side of the service refers to the traffic delivery function that, according to the D.C. Circuit, ISPs effectively provide to the various websites and services seeking to communicate with the ISPs’ subscribers).
We look forward to engaging further with the Commission as it seeks to craft an effective and lasting open Internet policy.