Mozilla Proposes New Plan To Preserve Net Neutrality

Weighing in on the debate about net neutrality, the browser developer Mozilla is urging the Federal Communications Commission to pave the way for imposing common carrier rules on Internet service providers.

Like many advocacy groups, Mozilla says that the FCC should reclassify broadband as a “telecommunications” service. Doing so would allow the agency to treat ISPs like telephone companies, which have long been required to put through all phone calls.

But Mozilla is proposing a new wrinkle on reclassification. The company says the FCC should conceptualize broadband as two separate services. One is “local delivery,” or the connections between ISPs and the consumers who subscribe to them. The second, which Mozilla calls a “remote delivery” service, refers to the connections between ISPs and the “edge providers” -- like Netflix or YouTube -- that offer content.

Mozilla's Chris Riley, a senior policy engineer, says in a new blog post that reclassifying “remote” delivery as a telecommunications services will give the FCC “ample ability to adopt and enforce meaningful net neutrality.”

Riley adds: “With clear authority and effective rules, ISPs would be prevented from blocking or discriminating against any edge provider, whether on a wireline or wireless network.”

Mozilla also says it's troubled by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's recent proposal to allow Internet service providers to create paid fast lanes. “Innovation and competition require nondiscriminatory access for all edge providers to end user subscribers, without blocking, throttling, or prioritizing one option relative to others,” Riley writes.

Other net neutrality proponents also reacted with dismay to Wheeler's recent pay-for-play proposal, arguing that ISPs will use that power to discriminate against competitors, small companies and nonprofits.

For his part, Wheeler insists that the FCC will require ISPs to “assure an open pathway” that allows information to flow online.

But Mozilla points out the flaw in Wheeler's promise. “Even if Chairman Wheeler stands ready to use the FCC’s full authority to establish stronger protections later, should they become needed, Internet users and developers cannot know whether future FCC Chairs will maintain vigilance,” Riley writes. “In contrast, clear authority and meaningful, enforceable rules would provide lasting certainty.”

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