The biggest tech companies in the country have been conspicuously quiet in the days leading up to Thursday’s net neutrality vote by the Federal Communications Commission.
The decision will almost certainly impact Big Tech as the FCC is poised to roll back the Obama-era regulations requiring internet providers to offer the same speed of service to all online content. But, as The New York Times notes, “the biggest tech companies, such as Facebook and Google, have taken a back seat in the debate about protecting net neutrality.” Some of those companies want to save their political capital for other regulatory battles or defer to their lobby, Internet Association, but several are still discreetly pressuring the FCC through public comments.
The FCC has received more than 20 million comments on the “Restoring Internet Freedom” notice of proposed rule making, which would roll back net neutrality protections. GeekWire sifted through them and found comments from Microsoft, Apple, T-Mobile, and Amazon.
Microsoft and Apple’s comments are in line with the dominant sentiment in Silicon Valley: open internet rules are essential to competition in the innovation economy. Amazon’s submission is actually a write-up summarizing in-person meetings between the Seattle e-commerce giant’s lobbyists and FCC commissioners. T-Mobile stands out from the pack as a wireless carrier rather than an internet edge service. The Bellevue, Wash.-based company asked the FCC to revise its regulations so that mobile and fixed internet carriers are subject to different rules.
Continue reading for highlights from their comments, submitted by attorneys or other representatives on behalf of each company. To read more of their comments, click any company name.
“Without an open internet, broadband internet access service providers gain the power to outright prevent edge content and services from reaching their customers, levy tolls on edge providers and customers for access to edge content and services, and pick winners and losers in the internet economy, thus subjecting edge provider success to the control of broadband internet access services providers rather than the forces of customer demand. These outcomes create risk for edge providers that threatens to redirect capital in a manner that may prevent edge providers from ever entering the market in the first place or innovating beyond current trajectories, which has the potential to undermine our internet economy. Consumers, and the economy as whole, benefit when edge providers distinguish themselves through innovation, rather than on their ability to pay broadband access providers fees for preferential treatment.
“Edge provider investment and innovation are just as dependent today on an open internet as they always have been. The same underlying economic incentives, the same market forces, the same potential harms should all compel the same conclusion: the Commission should maintain enforceable net neutrality rules. A robust, open internet that preserves consumer access to all lawful edge services is necessary to encourage innovation and maintain a strong and vibrant U.S. economy. Now is not the time for the Commission to abandon its protection of an open internet.”
“Paid fast lanes could replace today’s content-neutral transmission of internet traffic with differential treatment of content based on an online providers’ ability or willingness to pay. The result would be an internet with distorted competition where online providers are driven to reach deals with broadband providers or risk being stuck in the slow lane and losing customers due to lower quality service. Moreover, it could create artificial barriers to entry for new online services, making it harder for tomorrow’s innovations to attract investment and succeed. Worst of all, it could allow a broadband provider, not the consumer, to pick internet winners and losers, based on a broadband provider’s priorities rather than the quality of the service.
“Apple remains open to alternative sources of legal authority, but only if they provide for strong, enforceable, and legally sustainable protections, like those in place today. Simply put, the internet is too important to consumers and too essential to innovation to be left unprotected and uncertain.”
“The Commission should revise its regulatory regime recognizing that one-size-fits-all solutions are likely to restrict the options available to consumers and thus undermine consumer welfare. Mobile broadband customers have, and make, many choices regarding the nature of the services to which they subscribe. These choices allow them to configure their services in ways that best suit their own lives and needs. For example, customers can choose from a variety of rate plans with differing features, such as picking Standard Definition rather than High Definition video to conserve data or save money.
“Congress must act to eliminate regulatory uncertainty. Absent such action, ambiguities regarding the Commission’s legal authority in this arena will lead to repeated disputes and shifting regulatory seesaws. The Commission should support an appropriate legislative solution to finally resolve this matter with a non-Title II Open Internet framework.”
“During the meetings, we stated that Amazon has long supported net neutrality protections to ensure our customers can enjoy an open internet, and we emphasized that the company remains committed to that position. Amazon does not support rolling back existing net neutrality protections as the FCC has proposed in the Restoring Internet Freedom Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. We stressed the need for enforceable, brightline rules to protect the open internet and guard against anti-consumer and anti-competitive activities.”