Earlier today, the FCC voted in a 3-2 split to move ahead with plans for fresh net neutrality rules. All told, this new set of proposed regulations differs somewhat from the commission's first proposal, which was shot down by a federal court earlier this year. In brief, the FCC wants to impose a "no blocking" rule, and is calling for a "fast and robust" performance baseline. Meaning, even if a company like Comcast wanted to charge Netflix for faster service, it would still have to deliver adequate speeds even for websites that weren't in the fast lane. Speaking of, these new rules do indeed allow for so-called fast lanes, though again, it's unclear how slow the "slow lane" will be. Finally, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is also calling for an ombudsman to investigate complaints of abuse on the part of ISPs. As you can imagine, internet service providers aren't happy about that last one. Or any of it, really.
In a statement, AT&T said:
Going backwards 80 years to the world of utility regulation would represent a tragic step in the wrong direction. Utility regulation would strangle investment, hobble innovation, and put government regulators in charge of nearly every aspect of Internet-based services. It would deprive America of the world's most robust broadband infrastructure, and place a cloud over every application or website that delivers products and content to consumers. In short, it would place government in control of the Internet at the expense of private companies, inventors and entrepreneurs, and ultimately at the expense of the American people.
"Such an approach would also send an alarming message to the rest of the world-a message that says the United States believes it is appropriate for governments to place onerous regulations on the Internet. This could encourage other countries to pursue their own goals, whether to suppress 'dangerous' speech or extract economic value from American Internet and content companies.
Tragic. Strangle. Hobble. Deprive. Alarming. Onerous. Got it: Ma Bell ain't pleased.
Verizon's reaction, meanwhile, was a little more tempered. In a much briefer statement, the company said it "looks to reviewing the FCC's proposal, and we will be constructively engaged in the months to come" but that it, too, is generally opposed to regulation:
But one thing is clear: For the FCC to impose 1930s utility regulation on the Internet would lead to years of legal and regulatory uncertainty and would jeopardize investment and innovation in broadband.
Ditto for Comcast, which even went with a kinda-approving blog post headline:
As strongly as we believe in the propriety of legally enforceable open Internet rules, however, we have an equally strong belief that any proposal to reclassify broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service subject to Title II of the Communications Act would spark massive instability, create investor and marketplace uncertainty, derail planned investments, slow broadband adoption, and kill jobs in America.
We, too, look forward to seeing what the FCC comes up with, though as a warning, it's not likely to deliver a final net neutrality proposal until later this year. In the meantime, we expect the ISPs are suiting up (with lobbyists, that is). We're reaching out to some of the other major providers, and will update this post as they weigh in.
*Verizon has acquired AOL, Engadget's parent company. However, Engadget maintains full editorial control, and Verizon will have to pry it from our cold, dead hands.