After the leak of Tom Wheeler’s proposed FCC net neutrality replacement and the commercially reasonable fast lanes it would supposedly allow, it was only a matter of time before the opposition overcame its initial stunned reaction. It has become hard to separate the debates about interconnection/peering, the Comcast/TWC merger, and the proposed new rules. The players overlap so much and it’s all the same infrastructure, so whatever the logical overlap the battlefield is becoming a shared one.
Along with Level 3’s blog post earlier this week, Cogent offered testimony before Congress yesterday and took aim at Comcast’s demands for payment for interconnection. As usual, Cogent’s CEO Dave Schaeffer gave no ground at all, pointing out that Comcast isn’t a global backbone, isn’t Tier 1, and really ought to be the one paying. I don’t think he expects that last bit to happen, but hey. Netflix’s traffic deal with Comcast isn’t a fast lane in the regulatory sense, it’s just that it’s a faster lane in practice which they happen to get paid for.
Meanwhile, a long list of internet companies of various types signed on to a letter sent to the FCC decrying the very idea of fast lanes. Along with a few service providers and Netflix, the likes of Amazon, Twitter, Google, Reddit, LinkedIn, Vonage, MicroSoft, Ebay, and Facebook were in on it, along with dozens more. That content companies would be opposed to the idea of negotiated toll roads isn’t a big surprise of course. But there was at least one big tech/content name not on the list that should raise an eyebrow or two. Apple remains silent on the subject, perhaps lending some credence to those earlier reports they’ve been seeking a fast lane of their own. Also missing are folks like Akamai, hmmm.
At least one FCC commissioner is ready to back off of the supposed plan that would allow commercially reasonable fast lanes. Jessica Rosenworcel, one of the other two Democrats on the panel, is looking for a delay in the possible rulemaking in the face of a “torrent of public response”. Given that the FCC’s core competence is delaying its own actions, I’m guessing she will succeed. At that point, the bell will ring and we can all go back to a corner to get ready for round 2.
I have a feeling all this is only going to get messier over the summer. The fights may be domestic US ones right now, but they are being watched carefully around the world. I wonder if anyone has considered the implications of government-blessed fastlanes as applied elsewhere in the world, especially in the wake of the NSA spying revelations. Commercially reasonable can be defined differently, and just thinking of what it might mean in a place like China or Russia hurts my brain. While fears of our own operators using such things to control the content we have at our fingertips seems a bit paranoid, elsewhere they definitely wouldn’t be.
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