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A response to Senator Patrick Leahy

Earlier today, we responded to a letter sent earlier this month from Senator Patrick Leahy to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam.  The letter inquired about an Internet business model – “paid prioritization” – that today is only theoretical and under which an Internet service provider would be paid by a content provider to carry that content provider’s traffic more quickly than other traffic within a customer’s last-mile broadband Internet access connection.

Verizon has not and is not using “paid prioritization,” does not hinder or slow consumers’ Internet traffic to the advantage of others’, and is on record numerous times as saying that it has no plans to undertake the hypothetical “paid prioritization” business model. In fact, no major broadband provider has ever implemented paid prioritization, most have disavowed any interest in doing so, and no one has even offered a clear business case for paid prioritization.

We note in our response – and all of the other major broadband providers and their trade associations have agreed – that even if a company were interested in such arrangements, the FCC has authority under Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act to prohibit those forms of paid prioritization it believes could be harmful to competition or consumers.

As we reaffirm in our reply to Senator Leahy, Verizon supports an open Internet. Verizon prides itself on building the most advanced networks and providing our customers with the best connectivity experience possible. As a result, Verizon both supports and relies on the open Internet. We also are actively engaged in many other parts of the Internet ecosystem – via our Internet backbone networks, content delivery networks, over-the-top services, cloud-services, and other innovative services – that rely on the open Internet. In short, our business is predicated on enabling our customers to go where they want and do what they want online with their broadband services. We have clearly committed this to our customers, and we stand by that commitment.

Given the lack of interest by ISPs in “paid prioritization” and the FCC’s ability to prohibit it under its existing authority if it sees the need to do so, the debate over this hypothetical business model really is just a political bait and switch by interest groups intended to divert attention from the fact that they are calling on the FCC to change the rules under which the Internet has operated successfully for twenty years.

The core issue is whether we replace the highly successful traditional light-touch regulation of the Internet that was put in place two decades ago during the Clinton Administration, with unprecedented utility-style regulations that were designed to regulate rotary phones. As we note in our letter to Senator Leahy, we believe a heavy regulatory approach would hinder innovation, limit consumer choices, and harm U.S. economic and job growth.

The issue of paid prioritization aside, we believe that all who support a robust Internet and the innovation it brings should be concerned about the consequences of restrictive new regulation on Internet services.  Over the two decades of the bipartisan, light-touch approach to Internet services, investment and innovation have proceeded at unprecedented levels, the open Internet has flourished, and consumers have benefitted.

Policymakers should be focused on maintaining that status quo.  The existing policy framework has led to the Internet becoming an unprecedented success for consumers, for our economy and for our society.  Why would the FCC risk changing that now?

Verizon will continue to lead in our commitment to deliver the best Internet experience to our customers and in our commitment to preserve an open Internet.