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US ISPs rail against FCC suggestion of Title II regulation of service

updated 04:38 pm EDT, Thu May 15, 2014

AT&T, Verizon, Comcast dislike idea of ombudsmen monitoring business

Amidst wide concern about today's US Federal Communications Commission vote on Chairman Tom Wheeler's net neutrality proposal, the three major Internet service providers are apparently not pleased as well. AT&T has penned a missive complaining that the potential regulation of Internet providers as a utility would "place a cloud" over innovation and harm customers. Additionally, Verizon believes that the same utility-like regulation, should the ISPs induce the FCC to enact it, would "jeopardize investment and innovation in broadband."

AT&T goes on to say that "going backwards 80 years to the world of utility regulation would represent a tragic step in the wrong direction. Utility regulation would strangle investment, hobble innovation, and put government regulators in charge of nearly every aspect of Internet-based services."

It also believes that "such an approach would also send an alarming message to the rest of the world -- a message that says the United States believes it is appropriate for governments to place onerous regulations on the Internet" which could potentially cause other governments to "pursue their own goals, whether to suppress 'dangerous' speech or extract economic value from American Internet and content companies."

Verizon claims to have always been on the side of the consumer with net neutrality regulations. Its statement notes that "Verizon has long been committed to an open Internet for a simple reason: our customers demand it. This was true before the FCC ever considered putting rules in place, and serving our customers will ensure our commitment to an open Internet regardless of what the FCC does in the future."

The FiOS provider reminds readers of its $100 billion investment in upgrading US infrastructure, which it says was "encouraged by a bipartisan consensus for light-touch regulation of the Internet that began in the Clinton administration."

Comcast, for its part, mentions that it is still bound by previous Open Internet rules, as a result of its prior merger with NBCUniversal. One one hand, the company "remains confident that the Commission will continue to appropriately balance its strong commitment to consumer protection with the need to allow network operators to manage their networks reasonably."

On the other hand, it also thinks that Title II regulation of ISPs as a telecommunication service, handled from a regulatory standpoint very much like a utility, is a very bad idea, and will dramatically "spark massive instability, create investor and marketplace uncertainty, derail planned investments, slow broadband adoption, and kill jobs in America."

The three telecom providers aren't complaining about the "fast lane" that Chairman Wheeler is suggesting for implementation -- rather the concern that is being voiced is the potential for an independent ombudsman to look into the ISPs should they act against the best interest of the public in all aspects of business, including implementation of the fast lane concept. None of the ISPs complaining today about the ruling are ranked particularly high on customer satisfaction indexes.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Steve Wilkinson

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 12-19-01

    Well, let's go back 80 years then and start over and see if we can get it right the next time. What we currently have certainly isn't working.

    That said, I'm guessing given what the FCC really did, these ISPs are just pretending to be upset, as the FCC didn't really do much of anything to protect consumers. They need to go all the way, and reclassify. That's the only thing that will really protect the Internet.

  1. sunman42

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 11-09-11

    "Verizon believes that the same utility-like regulation, should the ISPs induce the FCC to enact it, would 'jeopardize investment and innovation in broadband.'" By which they mean, I guess, their innovations to make their shareholders more money. I can understand that, but the Internet is de facto a public way, and as such ought to be regulated like a public utility – too much depends on access to it. Ideally, the government should buy the infrastructure (or condemn it under eminent domain, let the "takings" opponents scream, and finally provide some truth to the hoary metaphor of information highways – analogous to actual highways built with taxpayer funds).Ohm, but the government never "innovates." Like DARPAnet.

    Frankly, I think the switch vendors would probably rather sell to a single purchaser, because the orders would be so much larger. And just like Medicare, the government could operate at much lower overhead and without having to worry about quarterly ROI. But I know, Fox News would never allow it.

  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-06-01

    If the ISP oligarchy is complaining, I'm inclined to think it's a good thing, although I suspect Steve Wilkinson is right--they're just making noise either because not getting absolutely everything they ask for wrapped up in a bow offends them, or just to make a good show of it so people think they're getting a concession.

    I liked the potshot at telecoms of 80 years ago--how could we ever want to go back to an era where we went from telephones not existing to every house in the US, down to the rural outskirts, wired to place calls to every other location in the US at will, for a reasonable fee?

    Contrast that with the last decade--presumably the wonderful world they're comparing to--which has seen US broadband increase in speed slightly, usually with a proportional increase in cost, taking us from behind the global curve to *way* behind the global curve. I mean, seriously, the broadband options in the US are shameful compared to almost any other industrialized nation, and that's if you're in an urban hub. Rural, and you're lucky if you have any broadband option at all. All that competition and innovation sure doesn't seem to be helping much when the bill comes for a DSL connection 1/5 the speed of what I could get in a rural Japanese town for less money.

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 01-25-07

    ATT -- "or extract economic value from American Internet and content companies."
    Hold on there buckaroo. Just where did this internet thing come from anyway?

  1. Stuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 02-11-05

    The government created the Internet (WWW) and thus has the right to regulate it, as a utility. Providers can complain they're ham-stringed and that innovation will come to a halt. Oh well, how much faster do I need a HD stream to download over broadband. Subsidize their maintenance and upkeep/upgrade with tax dollars and level the cost to use...sounds like a utility to me!

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