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Goodbye to all of that: Is the neutral internet now safe?

tollway

via Flickr © artifishall (CC BY 2.0)

  • Having sued the FCC over net neutrality Verizon now says it's for the 'open internet'
  • Owning the OTT company, AOL, might have a lot to do with it
  • Is the net neutrality struggle now over?

We don’t know what way the D.C. Circuit court of appeals is going to rule on the legal challenge to the FCC's move to reclassify broadband access services as a common carrier service.

But perhaps Verizon does.  

Perhaps the second largest US carrier has a feeling in its corporate water that the tide has turned and that net neutrality is now almost a given, no matter what the courts say. Time to give in gracefully and adjust the corporate position? Get ready to thank the court for ‘clarifying’ the situation?

Perhaps.

Otherwise what are we to make of the latest carefully penned article by Craig Silliman, executive vice president, public policy and general counsel at Verizon, who says that despite the years spent fighting against net neutrality (readers won’t need reminding that it was Verizon that had the courts overturn the original FCC neutrality order  - a move that lead directly to the reclassification and the ‘regulation’ that it so abhors) it now feels itself “committed to an open Internet”.

At the same time Silliman says Verizon is against the FCC applying “outdated rules to the fast-moving Internet ecosystem.”  

So it’s not what you did, FCC, it’s the way that you did it

Silliman writes that “now – before the court decides – is the time for us to make clear what Verizon stands for and what kind of policies we support, regardless of the outcome of that case.

  • No Blocking: we support rules that prevent providers from blocking lawful content, applications or services.
  • No Throttling: we support rules that prevent providers from intentionally slowing down or throttling Internet traffic based on the traffic’s source, destination or content.
  • No Paid Prioritization: we support rules that prevent providers from charging content providers a fee to deliver their Internet traffic faster than the Internet traffic of others.
  • General Conduct Standard: we support a general conduct rule that would prevent unreasonable conduct by broadband providers where there is actual harm to consumers or to competition.

“Net neutrality,” he says, “is right for consumers and is vital to [Verizon’s] business” since it’s  “invested billions in businesses that depend on the ability to reach customers over the networks and platforms of others.”  In particular, Verizon has spent $4.4 billion purchasing AOL along with the Huffington Post, MapQuest, TechCrunch and more.

In other words, Verizon has gone ‘over the top’ (as we used to say) and it can suddenly see, with real clarity, the value to it in all the other ISPs (broadband access providers) allowing it ‘free access across their pipes to their customers”.  Without that dispensation (net neutrality) all that investment would be “at risk”.

That repositioning has taken a while. Much longer than we expected back in 2009 when TelecomTV did a series of articles and panel sessions on the ultimate necessity for telcos to stop fighting the so-called “OTT players” by trying to squash net neutrality, and to go ‘Over the Top’ themselves.

And yet.

There are clearly layers of meaning in this debate still, and plenty of wriggle room left for Verizon and others to define an ‘open internet’ in such a way as to allow blatant anti-neutrality. Many would argue that offers that ‘cap service and exempt content’ are a case in point. So we probably haven’t heard the last of this fight, even if the players are carefully adjusting their positions.

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