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Without net neutrality, ISPs would destroy U.S. broadband speeds

Steven Max Patterson | May 20, 2014
Verizon has made it clear that it would make the minimum broadband speeds unreasonably slow. Without the FCC in their way, other ISPs would join in.

Verizon actually argued for a slower internet — slower than most internet connections in Bulgaria — in its Federal lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission and net neutrality earlier this year. In arguing for a snail-slow internet, Verizon challenged the very powers that underlie the draft net neutrality rules the FCC released last week for public comment.

The FCC derives its power to regulate net neutrality from its charter from Congress to assess the deployment of broadband. If the FCC determines that U.S. internet is deficient, it is empowered to enact policy and regulations to correct it. In 2010, the FCC changed its threshold internet speed from an archaic 200 Kbps to a not-very-fast 4 Mbps for the purpose of assessing the progress of the American internet. Verizon essentially argued that a 200 Kbps consumer internet connection was fast enough and that the FCC acted unreasonably in increasing its threshold to 4 Mbps.

The audacity of Verizon's argument becomes clear when one considers that over 82% of the internet connections in Bulgaria operate faster than 4 Mbps, according to Akamai's 4th Quarter 2013 State of the Internet Report. And the new threshold speed is three orders of magnitude slower than Google Fiber.

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Credit: Akamai

Verizon's opposition to net neutrality is very provincial. It is less expensive to solve internet performance problems by increasing capacity than it is to create fast lanes, according to a report provided to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in 2006. Presumably, Verizon believes it can charge much more than it costs to build fast lanes.

Now that the FCC has released its draft rules, the fight for net neutrality actually begins. The Verizon litigation left the FCC in an awkward situation - with enough authority to regulate net neutrality partially, but not enough to put the issue to rest definitively.

And there will be no rest, because regulatory lobbying and litigation is as much a part of Verizon's business as running fiber-optic cable. There never will be a day when Verizon's lobbyists and lawyers stop trying to gain a regulatory advantage for its investors, and as Verizon's opposition to the FCC's 4 Mbps threshold demonstrates, there is no limit to what it might challenge. During the next four months, Verizon and large telecommunications service providers such as AT&T and Comcast can be expected to challenge the draft rules and perhaps propose a slower, less-functional internet again.

Chairman Wheeler doesn't have much choice but to fight a protracted campaign for net neutrality. The only way to put the issue to rest is through an act of Congress that gives the FCC greater net neutrality regulatory powers.

Source: Network World


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