Net Neutrality: a path forward

By: Craig Silliman
Rich Young
T. 202.515.2514
Net Neutrality: a path forward

Verizon is committed to an open Internet. It’s what’s right for consumers and is vital to our business. Why? We have invested billions in businesses that depend on the ability to reach customers over the networks and platforms of others. We invested in digital ad technology through our $4.4 billion purchase of AOL and own content through properties like the Huffington Post, MapQuest, and TechCrunch. We have an expanding presence in the digital media and entertainment space; Verizon Digital Media Services helps content companies deliver their services in digital form to any screen or device, anywhere in the world.

These investments would be at risk without an open Internet. Now more than ever, we see protecting an open Internet as a business imperative that is inextricably tied to our future success. 

In addition, we are a network company. The foundation of Verizon’s success has been network excellence and we invest $17 billion every year so that consumers can continue to consume more of the content they want.

In crafting a policy framework, we therefore think it is important that policymakers both catalyze innovation in over-the-top services and encourage investment in networks that serve as their platform.

So what should that policy framework look like? These questions will come up again soon when the D.C. Circuit court of appeals rules in the challenge to the FCC’s decision to reclassify broadband services as Title II or common carrier services. We don’t know how the court will rule. The court could reverse the FCC completely, uphold the FCC completely, or issue a mixed decision.

So we think 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.

We can support these rules because we believe they are fair, even-handed, good for consumers and essential for us and others to thrive going forward. We can’t predict how the court will rule. But if history is any guide, we can expect more conflict and more uncertainty over the scope of the FCC’s authority and whether the current statute provides the tools the FCC needs to adopt these rules. The only way to avoid this depressing redux is for Congress to act.

In the past we have criticized the FCC for applying outdated rules to the fast-moving Internet ecosystem. We still think that’s true, but let’s be fair: Congress hasn’t updated the FCC’s toolbox for over 20 years, so the FCC is working with the only tools it has, however inadequate. Congress can give the FCC the tools it needs to do this properly and on a legally sustainable basis. It should do so.

Fortunately, there is a real chance that Congress will deal with these issues soon. There is strong bipartisan interest in these issues and strong leadership in the relevant committees. We applaud these bipartisan efforts and encourage Congress to move forward so that we finally have clear and enforceable open Internet rules once and for all.

Craig Silliman is Verizon’s General Counsel and Executive Vice President for Public Policy. He leads Verizon’s legal, regulatory, public policy, government affairs and security groups. Before assuming his current position in January 2015, Silliman was senior vice president for public policy and government affairs, with responsibility for Verizon's global public policy, federal and state legislative affairs, federal regulatory affairs, strategic alliances, national security, privacy and corporate citizenship.  Prior to that, Silliman served in a number of other senior management roles at Verizon. He was senior vice president and general counsel for Verizon's wireline consumer, business and wholesale groups globally, and senior vice president and deputy general counsel, with responsibility for antitrust, intellectual property, national security, privacy and strategic product support.