Comcast Corp. (CMCSA) lodged its comments in the Federal Communications Commission's review of net neutrality, arguing that it wants to uphold an open internet while striking down provisions from the Obama Administration's FCC.
The broadband giant maintains that it will not "block, slow down, or discriminate against lawful content," in a blog post by Chief Diversity Officer David Cohen, repeating a refrain that it and AT&T Inc. (T) have made regarding the protections. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has moved to strike provisions that the Commission had put in place under President Obama, saying that the government over-reached by placing 1930s era telecommunications regulations on the internet.
"[I]t's time for the naysayers to stop ignoring our - and other ISPs' - commitment to net neutrality," Cohen wrote. "This proceeding is simply not putting net neutrality at risk, no matter how many words are written attempting to misinterpret the intention and purpose of the [FCC's proposed rules]."
Comcast Supports Net Neutrality on the Internet Day of Action https://t.co/fIGAiU0n8K— Comcast (@comcast) July 12, 2017
The comment period for Chairman Pai's new internet rules ends Monday.
Pai has targeted rules put in place by former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. After suffering losses in court over FCC rulings, Wheeler reclassified broadband under Title II of the Communications Act, which treats it as a regulated telecom service akin to a utility, rather than an information service, which has lighter regulation. The move solidified the FCC's authority to regulate the internet, but drew criticism from Republicans and from large Internet service providers.
Under the new rules, Pai would get rid of the Title II designation. He also asked for comments from the public on Wheeler's prohibitions on blocking, throttling or prioritizing internet traffic, among other provisions.
Comcast's Cohen echoed comments by Pai, noting that Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) , Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOGL) Google, Facebook Inc. (FB) and other internet powers arose under Clinton-era regulations that treated broadband as an information service from 2005 to 2015.
"Internet connections grew by over 600%; annual investment grew by $14 billion; online video subscribers went from just about zero to almost 90 million," Cohen wrote. "Startup Internet companies grew into some of the largest companies not just in the U.S., but also in the entire world." Amazon, eBay Inc. (EBAY) , Facebook, Google, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) , Netflix Inc. (NFLX) , Salesforce.com Inc. (CRM) and Twitter Inc. (TWTR) grew from $381 billion in collective market value in 2005 to more than $1.7 trillion in 2015.
The assurances of ISPs have not been sufficient for many public advocates and for Silicon Valley leaders such as Facebook founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. "If a service provider can block you from seeing certain content or can make you pay extra for it, that hurts all of us and we should have rules against it," Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page.
The Washington, D.C., Circuit Court has ruled in recent years that the FCC could not prohibit blocking unless broadband is treated as a telecommunications service rather than an information service. Without Title II, the FCC may not have the authority to prevent blocking if it occurs.
The ideal solution is probably for Congress to write legislation that outlines internet rights, something that Zuckerberg and Comcast's Cohen support.
"Ultimately, we maintain that the best way to end this regulatory ambiguity is for Congress to pass bipartisan legislation," Cohen wrote. "And yet, we also recognize that consumers deserve to be protected, regardless of the political tug of war."
The last Communications Act, passed in 1996, took a decade to write. The House and Senate are not exactly models of comity today, suggesting that a legislative reboot is not coming soon.
However divisive they may turn out, Pai's Internet rules will be the standard. As the Obama FCC's experience reflect, however, the courts may also have a say as the political tug of war over net neutrality continues.
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