As the cable and telecom industry opened fire on Tom Wheeler’s recently announced net neutrality proposal, the FCC Chairman came out swinging this week. In comments made while giving a speech in Colorado, Wheeler called out Verizon for hypocrisy. It was the telecom giant whose legal challenge to previous weaker net neutrality regulations got them thrown out, necessitating Wheeler’s new proposal. While Verizon and other companies have all pledged to support the idea of an open internet, Wheeler cited oral arguments from one of Verizon’s own attorneys during their last legal bout. When asked whether they intended to restrict access through commercial agreements, Verizon’s representation responded: “I am authorized to state by my client today that but for these rules we would be exploring those commercial arrangements.”
Today, Verizon has attempted to clarify the lawyer’s words, with a VP, William Johnson, stating that they were merely referring to “innovative business arrangement” in order to recover the costs associated with building and maintaining their network. Johnson attempted to reframe these types of agreements, not as threats to net neutrality, but as benefits to consumers, where businesses “pick up the tab” for the transmission of content so that consumers don’t have to. But where Verizon sees a “two-sided” market with potential benefits to all, consumer advocates often see a market in which both the sender and the recipient of the same content are both asked to pay for its delivery, benefiting only the ISP’s bottom line.