On April 17, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing on paid prioritization -- an issue that is central to the net neutrality debate. While most internet service providers (ISPs) have claimed that they have no plans to block or degrade traffic once the Federal Communications Commission's 2017 net neutrality repeal Order goes into effect (exactly when that will be remains TBD), commitments (or lack thereof) not to engage in paid prioritization have remained a moving target. These commitments are shifting with the political winds, and ISPs are including plenty of wiggle room to allow them to argue they haven’t misled consumers if they eventually choose to offer prioritization deals.
In my last post, took the four most famous net neutrality violations to see how they would come out under the current rules adopted in 2015 v. how they would come out under the regulatory framework following the Federal Communications Commission vote to repeal net neutrality rules, based on the draft Order. To condense the approximately 5500-word analysis: all four incidents are addressable under the 2015 rules. None of the incidents are addressable under the combined Federal Trade Commission and antitrust regime that remains after the vote to repeal the rules, with the exception of Comcast’s deliberate deception about their blocking peer-2-peer protocols in 2007-08.
The recent Internet Day of Action for net neutrality illustrates how intensely consumers feel about net neutrality protections, as more than 50,000 people, websites, and organizations demonstrated in favor of a free and open internet. Many Internet Service Providers claim that they, too, want net neutrality, but with one exception: they don’t want any rules that can be enforced against them. Asking giant internet providers like Comcast to behave is, quite frankly, implausible given their history of anti-competitive behavior.