The fight over net neutrality is going to get uglier. President Obama recently voiced support for classifying the Internet as a common utility and ending 19 states laws preventing broadband competition, and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler might join the President after voicing support for Title II at this year’s CES.
On the other side, Conservatives are pushing another bill in the House which would completely strip the FCC of regulating Internet activity by classifying it as an “Information Service”. You can thank Congressman Bob Latta out of Ohio for that, who received around $80,000 in donations from the telecoms during the 2013-14 election year cycle.
Google is backing Title II, as the reclassification would mean they would have more access to public utility lines and infrastructure as opposed to always digging their own trenches. There’s been growing support for more publicly funded broadband at the local level, while traditional ISP’s have been lobbying to maintain their non-competitive status quo.
Funnily enough we arrive at this point on the one year anniversary of an appellate court ruling in favor of Verizon in a lawsuit against the FCC and their Open Internet Order. The OIO would have enforced Net Neutrality rules on home internet and cabled broadband, but would have been pretty loose on wireless carriers.
Verizon alone sued the FCC over some fairly basic protections for keeping a level playing field, claiming it was their First Amendment right to degrade the quality of connection for competing services on their network. Other carriers have tried to circumvent Net Neutrality with “value add” benefits for consumers. People were up in arms about AT&T’s proposed Sponsored Data initiative, which would let third party companies pay to reduce the amount of data AT&T subscribers would be billed for, and T-Mobile found some success in cutting streaming music services off of customer’s bills.
Verizon’s actions a year ago in squashing the OIO means the worst possible option for carriers and ISP’s is the one gaining the most traction. It seems more likely now that in the wake of vocal opposition to the FCC’s “Fastlane” proposal, we might see an about face and a new proposal presented in favor of classifying the internet as a common utility.