Comcast Seems to Support Most Net Neutrality Rules

In a lengthy public comment to the FCC on net neutrality, Comcast said that it "would not be opposed" to a new standard (proposed by chairman Tom Wheeler and tentatively approved by an FCC vote) in which paid prioritization arrangements are considered commercially unreasonable unless proven otherwise. Comcast wrote:

"A broadband provider seeking to justify any 'paid prioritization' arrangement could be required to bear the burden of showing that the arrangement is commercially reasonable and fair to consumers and edge providers. Comcast believes that few arrangements would be deemed to overcome the presumption."

But Comcast also said that the FCC should not establish a policy that would preclude experimentation in this area. For example, an arrangement could emerge between broadband providers and edge providers that could have implications (we assume they mean positive) for competition and consumer welfare dependent on an individual arrangement, those parties involved in said arrangement, and the markets affected.

Comcast also said it supports a no-blocking rule and went so far as to say that Comcast believes that the FCC should consider extending net neutrality rules to cover cellular service. The commission’s 2010 rules (the Open Internet Order) largely exempted wireless, and the new proposal tentatively concludes that the FCC should continue that approach.

"Unlike the broad no-blocking and nondiscrimination rules applicable to fixed services, the [2010] no-blocking rule for mobile services applied only to websites and to applications that ‘compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services,’ and there was no non-discrimination rule at all for mobile services," Comcast wrote. "While such regulatory distinctions might have been defensible in 2010, the NPRM’s [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking's] recognition of the ‘significant changes since 2010 in the mobile marketplace’—including ‘how mobile providers manage their networks, the increased use of Wi-Fi, and the increased use of mobile devices and applications‘—supports at least a refreshed examination of that approach. There is no question that wireless is increasingly becoming a closer substitute for wireline broadband for many uses and for many Americans."

Comcast thinks it should apply the same approach to public Wi-Fi networks:

"A given wireless user may be accessing the Internet over a licensed mobile broadband network one minute and over an unlicensed Wi-Fi network the next with the same device," Comcast wrote. "It would be unreasonable—and likely arbitrary and capricious—to subject such traffic to one set of rules while it is delivered over a licensed mobile broadband network and a different set of rules whenever it is offloaded or shifted to a Wi-Fi network.."

Comcast also cautioned against categorizing broadband as a telecommunications service.

The FCC’s approach "has enabled light-touch regulation that has fostered dynamic innovation and unprecedented investment in broadband networks such as Comcast’s and allowed the broader Internet ecosystem to thrive," Comcast wrote. "Seeking to reverse the classification now would be a profound mistake."

The FCC should also avoid messing about in the interconnection market, Comcast said. The FCC is examining the paid peering deals Netflix signed with Comcast and Verizon, but it hasn’t proposed any rules that would stop or limit those agreements.

"Traffic-exchange arrangements have nothing to do with the ability of end users to access particular content or to use particular applications or services, and nothing to do with the priority with which content might be delivered to end users over a broadband Internet access service," Comcast argued. "For these reasons, Chairman Wheeler correctly acknowledged in his statement accompanying the NPRM that traffic exchange ‘is a different matter that is better addressed separately’ from this proceeding, and explained to industry stakeholders in February that traffic exchange ‘is not the same issue’ as net neutrality."

You can read all of Comcast's public comments here (PDF).

Some might speculate that Comcast may be striking an amiable tone on Net Neutrality because it wants the FCC and the Justice Department to greenlight its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. Whatever the motivation or level of sincerity, it's a step in the right direction. Now if only the FCC and Comcast could agree that data caps should be banned…

Source: Ars Technica

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