Agency Must Abandon Dangerous Traffic-Discrimination Plan
San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that the agency must abandon its current, dangerous plan to allow for Internet traffic discrimination. Instead, EFF is urging the FCC to reclassify the Internet as a "common carrier" and also to restrict itself to limited and tightly bounded regulation.
In formal comments submitted to the FCC, EFF argues that defending the neutral Internet is critical to protecting new online applications and services – innovations that have made the Internet a global platform for free expression and commerce of every kind.
"An open, neutral, and fast Internet has sparked an explosion of innovation in everything from shopping to the way we exchange ideas and debate potential political change," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "But its founding principles are now under threat. It's time for users to take action to protect our Internet."
The FCC has long promised to take steps to protect the open Internet, but earlier this year the agency announced a net neutrality proposal that would allow for so-called "Internet fast lanes." The plan claims to promote a neutral Internet, but embraces a "commercially reasonable" standard for network management, allowing ISPs to make special deals that would give some services privileged access to subscribers.
EFF believes that market competition should be the first line of defense against abusive ISP practices like non-neutral behavior. But because most Americans have only one or two realistic choices for residential broadband, normal market forces might not prevent discriminatory policies.
In its formal comments, EFF outlines a better way to protect the open Internet. A crucial piece is classifying broadband as a "telecommunications service" instead of an "information service," allowing the FCC to enforce "common carrier" rules like the ones that ensure fair and equal telephone service. At the same time, the FCC should only regulate narrowly, with clear rules. To prevent over-regulation, the FCC should explicitly "forbear" from applying many rules better suited for telephone service than Internet service – an official procedure the FCC has used in the past. In the meantime, the FCC can do more to require real transparency about broadband provider practices, as well as take steps to restore the open access rules that helped spark the early growth of the Internet.
"The FCC's current course is dangerous. It could undermine what makes the Internet the groundbreaking technology that it is," said EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. "It's time for the FCC to leave its flawed proposal aside and work on a better plan to support the open Internet."
The FCC is taking comment from the general public until September 10. You can send your views in through EFF's tool at DearFCC.org. So far, hundreds of thousands of people have submitted comments to the FCC, and the agency's site was only working intermittently Tuesday because of the large amount of traffic.