Net Neutrality Friday

Time to discuss the Nuclear Option. Okay, I love rhetoric but come on Title II is a regulatory change not a bomb that kills lots of people.

So, what does this mean. Title II is a part of the Telecom Act that regulates telephone companies for common carriage. Right now Internet Service is not regulated under that part of the act. To put Neutrality rules in place, today Title II is likely to only real answer. The reason I say that is that all attempts to regulate Internet Service to date have been bounced back over the fact that Internet Service is regulated as an Information Service.

The FCC can change course any day and regulate ISPs via Title II. They have not done so to date because the Internet has grown in strange and fascinating ways without heavy handed regulation. The FCC is concerned that if the regulatory paradigm shifts greatly it might impact the innovation that has happened over the last 20 years. I want to say that this seems like a reasonable concern. Phone service changed very slowly over the almost 150 years of service. Nobody would be happy if that rate of innovation was applied to the Internet.

There is one other roadblock that stands in the way of Title II. That is peering. In the phone network, the equivalent of peering exists and money exchanges hands when phone calls are made. In the real world, most of that money balanced out and little real money actually changed hands. It is not clear to me that the equivalent of what we used to call Long Distance Service (aka Internet Backbone Providers) could be excluded from Title II. If these companies are included, then the transmission of asymmetrical traffic might end up costing someone a lot of money. Today, that would be Netflix.

Yes, what I am saying is the way that most people want to fix "Net Neutrality Fast Lanes" might actually cause the charging of Netflix that I think won't happen otherwise. You saw me and Dan Grossman debate our points of view a bit last week. But if you understand mine, the whole Fast Lane idea buys Netflix nothing so they won't use it. I use both Netflix and Comcast today and have had no issue with either service over the past 18 months. During that time, Netflix was supposedly hampered by Comcast. I didn't see it, so I can't tell you that it happened for me.

Anyway have a great weekend and for those that just read this part of my blog, I might post on the 3rd but don't count on it!

Jim Sackman
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