Congress, FCC To Consider Halting Paid Prioritization of Internet Traffic Delivery To Preserve Open Internet

BY Heather Greenfield
June 17, 2014

Washington – Important issues related to Internet interconnection practices and policies have arisen anew in both Congress and the FCC.

Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy offered legislation Tuesday aimed at halting a growing practice that has Open Internet advocates concerned — paid prioritization of Internet traffic delivery. The legislation would direct the FCC to prohibit preferential treatment or prioritization of Internet traffic of an edge provider over that of another edge provider. There are exceptions for emergency communications, law enforcement, national security and other public safety communications.

The legislation comes days after FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced Friday the Commission will launch an investigation to examine so-called peering arrangements, which govern interconnection between networks of the Internet.  While the issue has broader significance, disputes involving Netflix and Internet Access providers Comcast and Verizon over paid prioritization and streaming-quality have made headlines recently.  Even though Netflix now has a paid agreement with Comcast, it and others have expressed worry about the future of the Internet if mandatory payments like this become accepted practice.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association has been an advocate of the Open Internet as well as an advocate for more than 40 years for an innovation culture in which market rules allow start up companies and disruptive innovators to succeed. The following can be attributed to CCIA President Ed Black:

“Congresswoman Matsui and Senator Leahy have prudently focused their legislation on the problems arising from the power which Internet access providers have to arbitrarily charge edge providers for priority local or “last mile” delivery capacity. If Internet Providers can extract unjustified tolls for interconnection where congestion and degraded service results at least partly from their own network’s lack of capacity, meaningful open Internet access will be threatened.

“Chairman Wheeler is also wise to launch an inquiry into the reasons for Internet congestion and the disputes between Internet access providers and online content services that lead to degraded consumer experiences.  Greater transparency is needed regarding new developments in this area.

“It is important that the economic incentives surrounding Internet activity not evolve in a way that rewards scarcity and those who fail to build out capacity to meet their subscribers and customers needs. Internet access providers should not be able to profit from any congestion or scarcity they may allow to occur. “

The following can be attributed to CCIA Vice President Cathy Sloan.

“Prioritizing Internet traffic for a price may relieve congestion for one company, but it does little to solve the overall problem of traffic congestion — and it leaves non-profits, startups and other small businesses at a greater risk of inferior connectivity.

“These recent peering and interconnection disputes involve one party that has a terminating monopoly over the physical network connecting its end users.   The other is an edge provider with no network monopoly.   In the Internet ecosystem, the industry norm has been settlement-free, nondiscriminatory interconnection.  That framework has allowed the Internet to thrive, and resisting the power of companies with a monopoly over terminating access is essential if it is to continue to do so.
“Even in Europe, where there’s more competition among broadband providers, the dominant carriers have been advocating for a backward “sender pays” regime for the Internet.“

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