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US ISPs threaten to break the internet unless they get their way

The day before the decision, one side gets nasty
Wed May 14 2014, 16:14

Federal Communications Commission emblemAMERICAN INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS (ISPs) have ganged up in defiant opposition to supporters of net neutrality.

As the rhetoric escalates ahead of a vote by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) tomorrow, the ISP CEOs have written a joint open letter to the commission warning of reprisals should they not get their way.

The rich executives are concerned that the FCC might reclassify internet services as "Title II: Telecommunications Services" to get around the federal appeals court ruling for Verizon that put network neutrality in play.

Should the FCC do so, the ISPs fear that they might have less money to spend on infrastructure and innovation, and that it might dent their profit margins.

"Reclassification of broadband internet access offerings as Title II-telecommunications services would impose great costs, allowing unprecedented government micromanagement of all aspects of the internet economy," the letter reads.

"It is a vision under which the FCC has plenary authority to regulate rates, terms and conditions, mandate wholesale access to broadband networks and intrude into the business of content delivery networks, transit providers, and connected devices."

The letter continues with the bleak threat, "Under Title II, new service offerings, options, and features would be delayed or altogether foregone. Consumers would face less choice, and a less adaptive and responsive internet. An era of differentiation, innovation, and experimentation would be replaced with a series of 'Government may I?' requests from American entrepreneurs. That cannot be, and must not become, the US internet of tomorrow."

Put bluntly, the signatories argued that unless they get to offer fast lanes to premium paying customers, they will stop investing in their networks.

What this actually illustrates is that the ISPs have too much power, and making what could be construed as blackmail threats to the FCC could backfire, as they have demonstrated that there is a direct conflict of interest between the right of the American people to have equality of internet service and their corporate desires to make higher profits.

An analogy might be if the water utility companies demanded the right to charge extra for clean water, and threatened to stop sewage treatment unless they were allowed to do so.

The open letter is a direct counterpoint to a similar one made by a number of the biggest brands in technology last week, defending net neutrality. FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel had recommended a delay in the FCC vote, but as things stand, the next move will play out in a statement tomorrow. µ


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