Net Neutrality

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski set forth the FCC's stance on Net Neutrality last week with his speech at the Brookings Institution where he summarized the four Internet principals as: "Network operators cannot prevent users from accessing the lawful Internet content, applications, and services of their choice, nor can they prohibit users from attaching non-harmful devices to the network." Additionally, he added the fifth principal of non-discrimination: "[service providers] cannot block or degrade lawful traffic over their networks, or pick winners by favoring some content or applications over others in the connection to subscribers’ homes. Nor can they disfavor an Internet service just because it competes with a similar service offered by that broadband provider. The Internet must continue to allow users to decide what content and applications succeed. Verizon's CIO's quick response was to discuss tiered bandwidth pricing at a recent Fiber to the home (FTTH) convention. As long as Verizon provides this service strictly based on bandwidth it should fall under the FCC's five principals. However, if they start to call out services, e.g. voice and video as "premium" services then they run afoul of those principals especially the non-discrimination principal. Here is the disturbing part of the address from Verizon CIO Richard Lynch: "Customers would have to pay for premium services, but it would allow us to differentiate based on the type of service, time of day, etc.” He does not mention heavy bandwidth users. He specifically calls out "premium services." Since Verizon runs a voice and video network (with FIOS) they could call HULU, YouTube and Netflix streaming a "premium service" and charge more for it. For them, data is data. They built their network and they are charged by other providers for the amount of traffic, not the type. If I download a 2MB power point presentation or a 2MB HULU video, I would expect to be charged the same. But if video is designated a 'premium service', then I would pay more for those bytes than the bytes of a powerpoint presentation. That is exactly what the FCC Non-discrimination clause is expected to prevent. Let's hope the FCC prevails.