Amazon Criticizes GOP Net Neutrality Proposal

Amazon is raising concerns about a net neutrality proposal unveiled late last week by Republicans.

The draft bill, circulated by GOP lawmakers, would impose some net neutrality rules on broadband providers, including a ban on throttling and pay-for-play fast lanes. But the measure also would limit the Federal Communications Commission's power to craft new regulations.

The retail giant says that while some of the net neutrality principles discussed in the bill “are excellent,” the measure contains language that could “undermine” the effectiveness of net neutrality principles.

“The draft clearly acknowledges that throttling and paid prioritization must be banned; that net neutrality protections must apply to wireless, as well as wireline; and that providers must disclose their practices,” Amazon Vice President Paul Misener says in written testimony to Congress, submitted in advance of tomorrow's hearing on net neutrality.

But, he continues: “Of course, for these excellent principles of Internet openness to be meaningful to consumers, they need to be effective. ... The bill should be modified accordingly to ensure that the Internet openness of net neutrality is maintained and effective.”

He specifically takes aim at a provision of the bill limiting the FCC's authority over broadband. “We believe that the FCC should be empowered to create adequate legal certainty and detail through effective enforcement tools and notice and comment rulemaking,” Misener says in his testimony.

He adds that a provision of the bill that curbs the FCC's power “could leave the agency helpless to address improper behaviors.”

“With so much at stake for consumers and businesses, this very real possibility should not be left to chance,” he says.

The lobbying group National Cable & Telecommunications Association, on the other hand, says it “wholeheartedly supports” the draft bill.

"In the absence of a clear Congressional directive, the FCC will continue its attempts to force the round peg of open Internet policy into the square hole of existing statutory frameworks,” CEO Michael Powell says in his prepared testimony.

“While the cable industry remains fully committed to giving Americans the open Internet experience they expect and deserve, we will continue to reiterate our unwavering opposition to any proposal that attempts to reclassify broadband services under the heavy-handed regulatory yoke of Title II,” says Powell, a former FCC chairman.

The proposed bill, which came less than two weeks after current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler indicated the FCC was poised to declare broadband service a utility (regulated under Title II of the Telecommunications Act), specifically prohibits the agency from doing so.

Many net neutrality proponents, including President Obama, are urging the FCC to reclassify broadband as a utility service, subject to common-carrier rules. Cable companies and telecoms oppose that approach, arguing that utility-style regulations -- which were designed for telephone companies -- aren't a good fit for broadband technology.

Powell reiterates those arguments in his testimony. 

"Our opposition to Title II does not stem from some nefarious desire to exercise control over consumers’ Internet habits, but rather is spurred by our knowledge of the very real harms that will follow if broadband services are subject to Title II’s outdated regulations,” he says.

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