U.S. FCC Will Vote to Remove Common Carrier Regulations on Internet Access in December 2017
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will vote on Dec. 14, 2017 to remove common carrier regulations from internet access services.
The move is called an attack on network neutrality, but the decision is more complicated than many claim.
In many clear ways, Title II common carrier regulation is a separate issue from network neutrality, which some believe should include a prohibition on any quality of service mechanisms for consumer internet access (no “fast lanes”).
Common carrier regulation is more directly concerned with price regulation, terms and conditions of service, not “network neutrality” in a direct sense.
In a formal sense, the original classification of internet access services as a common carrier service applied a utility-style framework on internet access services that always before had been regulated as “data services.”
One practical result was that consumer welfare issues moved from the purview of the Federal Trade Commission to the FCC itself.
Though commonly referred to as a “network neutrality” remedy, many would argue the FCC still retains the authority to maintain openness, such as ensuring that consumers have access to all lawful internet applications.
Beyond that core position, observers disagree about what other stipulations are required to maintain a climate conducive both to innovation and investment. A common position has been that “network neutrality” should extend beyond “no blocking of lawful apps” to other measures such as prohibiting any quality of service mechanisms (so-called “fast lanes” where latency or bandwidth or both can be prioritized for applications that benefit from such protections at times of network congestion).
The argument always is nuanced. As many will attest, content delivery services and direct interconnections already are ways some networks and app providers ensure quality of service advantages for themselves.
Beyond that, though there has been fear about creation of new “QoS” services, not even all who support the lawful right to create such QoS-ensured services are sure they make business sense.
Even the repeal of common carrier regulation does not, in that sense, have direct implications for network neutrality, in its “weak” form of “no blocking of lawful apps.” Nor does the change in framework necessarily change prospects for QoS-guaranteed services.
Most such services--which are lawful for business internet access services--make clearest sense for managed services where latency clearly matters. But it is by no means clear that consumer video services or voice have present performance issues that QoS makes sense for customers or app providers, beyond the measures app providers or ISPs already pay for (content delivery services or direct interconnection or peering).
And if anti-competitive practices were to arise, mechanisms already exist to deal with predatory behavior. Were common carrier regulation overturned, the Federal Trade Com