What Shape Will Internet Access Price Regulation Now Take?

The Federal Communications Commission continues to insist it will not apply price regulation to the Internet interconnection and access businesses as part of its decision to regulate Internet access and transport under common carrier rules.

With the caveat that enforcing a “zero price” rule is price regulation, should the network neutrality rules survive legal challenge or legislative override, unexpected price obligations might still be incurred by edge providers, ironically enough.

Though we are far from knowing precisely how the rules will be interpreted, if the common carrier framework survives legal challenge, there are all sorts of ways prices now might be regulated.

Zero pricing is the reality created by the "best effort only" or "no fast lanes" portion of the rules. That is the price at which consumer ISPs can price use of their networks by edge providers (apps). 

On the other hand, under common carrier rules, interconnecting networks pay compensation for termination whenever traffic loads are not equal. By definition, content domains (app and content providers) impose far greater, and highly unequal, termination traffic on "eyeball" domains (ISP customer bases).

It is one thing for the FCC to claim it will "forebear" from imposing price regulations. 

It might be quite another matter if the common carrier rules on network interconnection or termination apply as they have in the past. In that case, the FCC might be unable to prevent normal network termination charges from being applied, when traffic flows clearly are unequal.



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