“The essence of net neutrality is that ISPs such as AT&T and Comcast don't restrict, influence or otherwise meddle with the choices consumers make. The traditional form of net neutrality which was recently overturned by a Verizon lawsuit is important, but insufficient,” he writes in a document filed on Thursday with the FCC. He also posted the comments on the company's blog.
Hastings goes on to add that “strong” neutrality provisions would prohibit ISPs from “charging a toll for interconnection to services like Netflix, YouTube, or Skype, or intermediaries such as Cogent, Akamai or Level 3, to deliver the services and data requested by ISP residential subscribers.”
The neutrality rules that were vacated earlier this year prohibited ISPs from degrading or blocking lawful content requested by consumers, but didn't prevent ISPs from charging companies like Netflix for “interconnection” services. The FCC is now in the process of rewriting the neutrality regulations.
Hastings specifically takes aim at paid peering arrangements, such as the one that Netflix entered into with Comcast in February. That deal involves Netflix paying Comcast an interconnection fee, which allows Netflix to connect directly to Comcast's servers. Doing so allows Netflix's movies to be delivered more smoothly than in the past to Comcast's subscribers.
Netflix isn't the only one to question paid peering deals. Earlier this week, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) criticized paid peering in a letter sent to the Department of Justice, which is investigating Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner. Franken said that free interconnections, also called “settlement-free peering” are what enables “Internet traffic to flow freely among backbone and last-mile networks without interference from the corporations that control the infrastructure.”
Netflix and Comcast have never disclosed the specifics of the deal, which in itself has made it hard to determine all of the policy implications. The same day the deal was announced, advocacy group Public Knowledge pointed out the problems raised by the companies' secrecy. “From what information is public, it appears that the largest ISPs are demanding payment from networks that deliver content and services that residential broadband consumers demand,” the group said at the time. “Because the large residential ISPs themselves are the ones keeping the terms of their deals secret, it is raises the question of whether they have something to hide.”