I am a Ph.D. candidate at Emory University and an avid user of the Internet. Maintaining a free and open Internet is necessary for the innovation which drives our economy and shapes our future. Before this proposed regulation and related decisions, the Internet was a set of interconnected networks which end users purchased access to, consumers and businesses alike. What each customer paid for was for a certain amount of bandwidth and usage, and data located at any point of the Internet was directly accessible from any other point on the Internet in a fair manner.
Allowing internet service providers (ISPs) to charge third parties for privileged access to their customers breaks this model wide open. If an ISP’s customers are using too much data for the ISP to handle, shouldn’t the customers be the ones paying for network upgrade and expansion? Shouldn’t such upgrades and expansions allow faster and better access to the entire Internet and not just select third parties who have paid? And from the perspective of a new startup, how can they effectively compete on the Internet when the big players have all arranged “fast lane” deals with the major ISPs? This regulation will just create an unnecessary barrier to competition for new and smaller players and stifle innovation.
Furthermore, the big ISPs that want to do this are also content companies. They produce and deliver content in direct competition with services delivered from elsewhere on the Internet, and they will by default have ‘fast lane’ status without having to pay anything extra—and since they are primarily interested in serving their own customers, unlike a network-agnostic service like Netflix, they won’t need to pay any ‘fast lane’ fees to other ISPs.
A free and open Internet will in effect become Balkanized. Of course no content will be blocked, but if a customer is faced with Fast Service X and Slow Service Y, which will they be more likely to choose?
The correct and proper model for the Internet is the one we have had before: Customer pays ISP for access to the entire Internet, and ISPs and backbone providers peer and/or negotiate among themselves how to move the traffic around equitably. The Internet is a public good, and its value to society is directly dependent on the fact that the customer is paying to connect to the Internet as a free and open whole. The conclusion is inescapable: ISPs are common carriers of internet traffic. Please make regulation reflecting this reality.
This letter was submitted as an official comment to FCC Proceeding 14-28, "Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet" which proposes to codify and sanction the ability of internet service providers to charge third parties for privileged access to their customers. You can file your own public comment by submitting brief comments here or by writing a letter in a Word document and uploading it here.