Last night, Verizon filed comments on the FCC’s Open Internet Rulemaking proceeding. You can read the full filing here.
From our perspective this proceeding is not about whether we should have an open Internet. That issue has long been settled. Rather, this proceeding is about whether the FCC should continue applying the light-touch policy regime that has been in place for broadband Internet access service since the Clinton Administration and has led to the Internet ecosystem that is so central to our lives, or whether regulators should impose for the first time, a set of highly prescriptive and proscriptive rules based on regulations written for the rotary phone.
Today competition and innovation are rampant throughout the Internet ecosystem, and ensure that the marketplace is responsive to consumer demand. Broadband providers are responding to competition as one would expect and hope: By deploying more and better facilities, expanding the speeds and capacities of their service offerings, and offering consumers competitive prices. Maintaining an open and robust Internet is a paramount goal that benefits consumers, edge providers, broadband providers, and countless others.
To us the answer to the question facing the FCC is clear. The light-touch approach pursued by policymakers of both parties has been central to the Internet’s growth, and it continues to provide the foundation for innovation and investment that serves consumers well.
Further regulation of broadband is not needed at this time and would threaten the healthy dynamics fueling the growth and continued improvement of the Internet and the many services it enables. Indeed, end users have accessed the Internet literally billons of times since the early 1990s, when Internet access service first became widely available, yet proponents of regulation can only point to a few isolated and dated incidents of alleged problems. Existing legal protections, including the FCC’s transparency rule and generally applicable antitrust and consumer protection laws, as well as multi-stakeholder groups, already provide an effective backstop to prevent and address any future issues that could emerge.
“Reclassifying” broadband Internet access service as a Title II common carriage telecommunications service, as some have suggested, would be a radical departure that would not achieve its proponents’ stated goals and would only endanger the entire Internet ecosystem. The arcane regulatory framework embodied in Title II was crafted for 19th Century railroad monopolies and the early 20th century one-wire telephone world. The price and service regulation inherent in Title II have no place in today’s fast-paced and competitive Internet marketplace, and the threats posed by this approach would not likely be confined to broadband providers, but would spread inevitably to other Internet sectors. Moreover, such an approach would be unlawful and, at a minimum, would result in years of counterproductive uncertainty for the entire industry.
Ironically, reclassification would impose these harms and not even preclude the differentiation of service that its proponents seek to ban. Title II expressly recognizes that reasonable discrimination is lawful and has long permitted many of the practices that Title II proponents criticize. Thus, the application of Title II requirements to broadband providers would amount to regulation for the sake of regulation, strapping a straightjacket onto this competitive and dynamic sector.
In contrast, a balanced framework will ensure that broadband providers act reasonably and would protect against backsliding or bad acts that threaten consumers or competition, while preserving flexibility for all providers to experiment with new approaches that could offer new choices and benefit consumers and small players alike.
Verizon supports and relies upon a robust and open Internet. Our customers demand it, and our business depends on it. We have committed to our customers our support for the open Internet, and our broadband Internet access services enable them to go where they want and do what they want online. We invest in world-class broadband networks, such as our all-fiber FiOS network and our 4G LTE wireless network, to keep pace with consumers’ demand and offer an ever-more-robust range of services. We also are actively engaged in many other parts of the Internet ecosystem, including through our Internet backbone networks, content delivery networks, over-the-top services, cloud-services, and other innovative services that rely on the open Internet and enable a better Internet experience.
In all these capacities, Verizon depends upon an open Internet, and on the ability to reach consumers over the networks, software platforms, search engines and services of other providers. The vast majority of Internet customers use broadband providers other than Verizon, so we must regularly send traffic over the networks of third-party ISPs, and rely on other providers to direct and connect them to the content and services they desire. Verizon would be deeply concerned if any provider in the Internet ecosystem – another ISP, a large content provider, a search engine, a major social network, an operating system provider, or any other entity – were to keep end users from utilizing the Internet on their own terms or to restrict the availability of Verizon’s services to those end users.
We are confident that a balanced framework that both protects consumers and preserves flexibility for all competitors in the Internet ecosystem to innovate and offer new products and services will continue the remarkable growth and opportunity this remarkable platform enables.