Is the Internet One Service or Two?
As the FCC gets closer to a vote, new criticism of chairman Tom Wheeler’s net neutrality plan has come forth from some unlikely sources. Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, as well as search giant and net neutrality advocate Google have both expressed concern with an important piece of the proposal. Currently the proposal outlines plans to apply Title II or “Utility style” regulation to the Internet service that consumers pay for from the ISPs, the so-called “last mile” connections. It also leaves the door open to applying Title II to the service between ISPs and Internet content providers, which would allow the FCC to oversee Internconnection deals, like those between Netflix and major ISPs.
Commissioner Clyburn and Google take issue with this plan, arguing that it creates the illusion that there are two distinct services being offered, when in reality it is only one. The idea that the service ISPs provide to content providers is different from that provided to residential Internet users could potentially leave a large loophole in the plan. The current net neutrality proposal was envisioned in order to avoid a situation in which both the sender and the recipient must both pay for the delivery of the same piece of content, yet by declaring the two links to the Internet used by the sender and the recipient to be different services, ISPs could in theory set different prices for those services. Call it what you want, from “fast lanes” to “interconnection fees” the end result is the same: some content providers being forced to pay more to reach their own customers.