FCC Chair Says Internet Domain Interconnection Not on the Immediate Agenda

Though the U.S. Federal Communications Commission intends to rework its network neutrality regulations, it apparently has no appetite--and arguably no authority--for venturing beyond consumer high speed access to look at carrier interconnection as network neutrality issue, as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has advocated.


That is “not a network neutrality issue,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, apparently referring to Internet domain peering or transit agreements.


"Peering and interconnection are not under consideration in the ‘open Internet’ proceeding, but we are monitoring  the issues involved to see if any action is needed in any other context,” the agency said.


Carrier interconnection is covered under common carrier rules, while enhanced services are outside the FCC’s Title II jurisdiction.


But it is possible the FCC might try to reclassify Internet domain connections as common carrier operations in the future.


Such moves would have unknown and possibly unsettling implications for Internet services and apps in general. over the longer term, though some common carrier regulation of Internet domain interconnection would not be problematic.


And though video streaming suppliers and their transport providers might welcome such common carrier rules, which would give them “mandatory” interconnection rights, it isn’t so clear that such interconnection would necessarily also include “settlement free” or other business practices unrelated to traffic volume.


In principle, the FCC could mandate that all interconnection occur without regard to cost, and be conducted on a “zero rating” basis, as European regulators are proposing for mobile international roaming, at least within the European Union.

Whether that is politically feasible, or wise, might be the issue.

In principal, networks that terminate traffic on behalf of originating carriers are compensated for the costs of doing so. Were streaming domains to interconnect with "eyeball networks" operated by retail consumer Internet access providers, the consumer ISPs would be terminating huge amounts of traffic sent to them by Netflix and other streaming providers, and might reasonably demand payment for such termination services. 
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