Commentary

Muni-Broadband Providers Wary Of 'Collateral Effects' Of FCC's Net Neutrality Plan

Municipal broadband proponents, including some network operators, have made clear they're happy with news that the Federal Communications Commission appears poised to invalidate laws that prevent towns from creating their own networks.

But another expected FCC move isn't sitting well with dozens of muni-broadband providers. This week, 43 muni-broadband providers in towns like Braintree, Mass., Bristol, Tenn., and Greenville, Texas wrote to the agency to weigh in against Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal to treat broadband as a utility by reclassifying it as a telecommunications service.

The municipal Internet service providers say they don't have any intention of blocking or degrading traffic. They also say they don't intend to offer pay-for-play fast lanes -- and, in fact, couldn't do so even if they wanted to. “As smaller ISPs, none of us individually has the market power to compel payments for unblocking, non-discriminatory treatment or paid prioritization services because we serve too few Internet subscribers to matter to edge providers such as Netflix, Amazon or Hulu,” the providers say.

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But they say they oppose reclassification because they're afraid of “collateral effects” that will result from a change in classification. “As smaller ISPs,” they write, “we ... anticipate that significant new common carrier compliance and reporting obligations -- potentially at the state as well as federal level -- would inevitably flow from the reclassification of our Internet service as a telecommunication service.”

The providers specifically say that some new transparency rules -- “including those intended to inform edge providers about our business practices and real-time congestion on our networks” -- could result in financial burdens.

“The economic harm will flow not from following net neutrality principles, which we do today because we think it is beneficial to all, but from the collateral effects of a change in regulatory status that will trigger consequences beyond the Commission’s control,” they write.

 

 

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