It’s been less than a year since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to reclassify high-speed Internet from an information service to a regulated telecommunications service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. Yet, already there is talk of requesting further reform to Title II from industry players that feel the FCC’s decision will stifle innovation and make it more difficult to drive revenue.
In short, many industry providers feel that the decision—which upholds net neutrality by effectively revoking the right of broadband providers to self-regulate Internet pricing and provisioning—is too broad and requires greater refinement and fewer restrictions.
Now, several members of the broadband Internet community are challenging the FCC’s decision, and suggesting a new proposal that more closely aligns with the middle of the net neutrality debate. One group who is leading the charge against Title II reform, for instance, is the Information Technology Innovation Council (ITIC), a think tank comprised of legislators, scholars and technology executives from industry heavyweights like Cisco, Amazon, Google and others. On Oct. 29, the ITIC outlined a new legislation proposal—referred to as the “Grand Bargain,” which aims to reverse the reclassification of broadband as a telecommunications service.
According to Multichannel, the ITIF’s Grand Bargain proposal is primarily intended to clarify that broadband Internet service is not a “telecommunications service” as Title II currently states it is. The proposal also seeks to allow pro-competitive traffic differentiation for applications requiring paid prioritization, while also preventing anticompetitive abuses for prioritization.
“The real issue should not be prioritization versus no prioritization, but what kind of traffic can be prioritized under what business arrangements,” the ITIC report states, adding that one-sided net neutrality regulations only aim to protect “upper layers of the Internet that are relatively immune to fluctuations in packet loss and delay from some hypothetical risks in the future.”
The report goes on to explain that in some instances—like in high-frequency online trading and gaming—prioritization can actually be helpful, claiming that prioritization of service provides necessary stability for developing systems over broadband platforms.
Through its proposal, the ITIC also aims to expand public broadband adoption programs like the FCC Lifeline subsidy, as well as to reinforce open Internet protections.
As you can see, the bill looks to appease parties on both sides of the net neutrality debate, as it will allow for paid prioritization in certain instances while also helping to fund new broadband programs and ensure an open, less regulated public Internet. It may not be the best possible solution, but it could be a way for all parties in the debate to come to a working agreement about the optimal way to handle the touchy Title II issue.
What’s your opinion of the ITIC’s Grand Bargain? We want to hear from you!