Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet NPRM

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Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet NPRM

Before the Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet

GN Docket No. 14-28


Adopted: May 15, 2014 Released: May 15, 2014

Comment Date: July 15, 2014

Reply Comment Date: September 10, 2014

By the Commission: Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Clyburn issuing separate statements; Commissioner Rosenworcel concurring and issuing a statement. Commissioners Pai and O'Rielly dissenting and issuing separate statements.

Table of Contents


I. Introduction

II. Background

III. Discussion

  • A. The Continuing Need for Open Internet Protections
  1. An Open Internet Promotes Innovation, Competition, Free Expression, and Infrastructure Deployment

  2. Broadband Providers Have the Incentive and Ability to Limit Openness

  • B. Scope of the Rules

  • C. Transparency Requirements to Protect and Promote Internet Openness

  1. The 2010 Transparency Rule

  2. Enhancing Transparency to Protect and Promote Internet Openness

  3. Compliance and Enforcement

  • D. Preventing Blocking of Lawful Content, Applications, Services, and Nonharmful Devices

    • 1. The 2010 No-Blocking Rule

    • 2. Proposal to Adopt a No-Blocking Rule

    • 3. Establishing the Minimum Level of Access under the No-Blocking Rule

    • 4. Application of the No-Blocking Rule to Mobile Broadband

    • 5. Applicability of the No-Blocking Rule to Devices

  • E. Codifying an Enforceable Rule to Protect the Open Internet That Is Not Common Carriage Per Se

  1. The 2010 No Unreasonable Discrimination Rule

  2. Proposed Elements of an Enforceable Legal Rule

  3. Potential Conduct That Is Per Se Commercially Unreasonable

  4. Potential Safe Harbors

  • F. Legal Authority
  1. Section 706

  2. Title II

  3. Other Sources of Authority

  4. Constitutional Considerations

  • G. Other Laws and Considerations

  • H. Enforcement and Dispute Resolution

  1. Background

  2. Designing an Effective Enforcement Process

  3. Complaint Processes, Enforcement, and Additional Forms of Dispute Resolution

IV. Procedural Matters

  • A. Paperwork Reduction Act Analysis

  • B. Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

  • C. Comment Filing Procedures

  • D. Ex Parte Rules

  • E. Contact Person

V. Ordering Clauses

APPENDIX A—Proposed Rules

APPENDIX B—Initial Regulatory Flexibility Analysis

I. Introduction

1.The Internet is America's most important platform for economic growth, innovation, competition, free expression, and broadband investment and deployment. As a "general purpose technology," the Internet has been, and remains to date, the preeminent 21st century engine for innovation and the economic and social benefits that follow. These benefits flow, in large part, from the open, end-to-end architecture of the Internet, which is characterized by low barriers to entry for developers of new content, applications, services, and devices and a consumer-demand-driven marketplace for their products. As the Commission explained in its 2010 Open Internet Order , the Internet's open architecture allows innovators and consumers at the edges of the network "to create and determine the success or failure of content, applications, services and devices," without requiring permission from the broadband provider to reach end users. As an open platform, it fosters diversity and it enables people to build communities.

2.We start with a fundamental question: What is the right public policy to ensure that the Internet remains open? This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Notice), and the comment process that follows, will turn on this fundamental question.

3.Today, there are no legally enforceable rules by which the Commission can stop broadband providers from limiting Internet openness. This Notice begins the process of closing that gap, by proposing to reinstitute the no-blocking rule adopted in 2010 and creating a new rule that would bar commercially unreasonable actions from threatening Internet openness (as well as enhancing the transparency rule that is currently in effect).

4.The goal of this proceeding is to find the best approach to protecting and promoting Internet openness. Per the blueprint offered by the D.C. Circuit in its decision in Verizon v. FCC , the Commission proposes to rely on section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. At the same time, the Commission will seriously consider the use of Title II of the Communications Act as the basis for legal authority. This Notice seeks comment on the benefits of both section 706 and Title II, including the benefits of one approach over the other. Under all available sources of legal authority (including also Title III for mobile services), the Commission seeks comment on the best ways to define, prevent and punish the practices that threaten an open Internet. We emphasize in this Notice that the Commission recognizes that both section 706 and Title II are viable solutions and seek comment on their potential use.

5.It is important to always remember that the Internet is a collection of networks, not a single network. And that means that each broadband provider can either add to the benefits that the Internet delivers to Americans—by maintaining Internet openness and by extending the reach of broadband networks—or it can threaten those benefits—by restricting its customers from the Internet and preventing edge providers from reaching consumers over robust, fast and continuously improving networks. This is a real threat, not merely a hypothetical concern.

6.In its 2010 Order , the Commission found that providers of broadband Internet access service had three types of incentives to limit Internet openness.First, broadband providers may have economic incentives to block or disadvantage a particular edge provider or class of edge providers. Second, broadband providers may have incentives to increase revenues by charging edge providers for access or prioritized access to the broadband provider's end users. In particular, excessive fees could reduce edge provider entry, suppress innovation, and depress consumer demand. Third, if providers could profitably charge edge providers they would have an incentive "to degrade or decline to increase the quality of service they provide to non-prioritized traffic."

7.Those threats are even more important today because Americans and American businesses have become even more dependent on the Internet. For example, according to the Pew Research Internet Project, as of January 2014, 87 percent of Americans used the Internet, compared to 14 percent in 1995. And it is a critical route of commerce, supporting an e-commerce marketplace that now boasts U.S. revenues of $263.3 billion.

8.Of particular concern are threats to American innovation. In "the end-to-end architecture, different economic actors can independently choose their innovation projects."1 Innovation is the chief driver of American economic growth, which means that all Americans lose if the opportunity to innovate is curbed. For example, an economic study originally released in February 2012 and updated in July 2013 reported that the app economy is responsible for roughly 752,000 jobs in the United States, which is an increase from zero in 2007 when the iPhone was introduced. But equally important are the jobs that could be—but might not be—created if edge innovation and investment were to be chilled by doubt that the Internet will remain open or, even worse, if openness were defeated.

9.Although the Commission has emphasized for almost a decade the importance of legally enforceable standards, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has twice invalidated the Commission's attempts, most recently in Verizon v. FCC , decided this January. It is in the absence of these protections for the open Internet that the Commission must act to ensure that new legally enforceable rules are put in place. That is a gap that must be closed as quickly as possible.

10.The remainder of the Notice proceeds as follows. First, we generally propose to retain the definitions and scope of the 2010 rules. Second, we tentatively conclude that the Commission should enhance the transparency rule that was upheld by the D.C. Circuit so that the public and the Commission have the benefit of sunlight on broadband provider actions and to ensure that consumers and edge providers—indeed, the Internet community at large—have the information they need to understand the services they are receiving and to monitor practices that could undermine the open Internet. Third, we tentatively conclude that the Commission should adopt the text of the no-blocking rule from the Open Internet Order with a revised rationale, in order to ensure that all end users and edge providers can enjoy the use of robust, fast and dynamic Internet access. Fourth, and where conduct would otherwise be permissible under the no-blocking rule, we propose to create a separate screen that requires broadband providers to adhere to an enforceable legal standard of commercially reasonable practices, asking how harm can best be identified and prohibited and whether certain practices, like paid prioritization, should be barred altogether. Fifth, we propose a multi-faceted dispute resolution process to provide effective access for end users, edge providers, and broadband network providers alike and the creation of an ombudsperson to act as a watchdog to represent the interests of consumers, start-ups, and small businesses. Sixth, and finally, we ask how either section 706 or Title II (or other sources of legal authority such as Title III for mobile services) could be applied to ensure that the Internet remains open.

II. Background

11.Today's Notice rests upon over a decade of consistent action by the Commission to protect and promote the Internet as an open platform for innovation, competition, economic growth, and free expression. At the core of all of these Commission efforts has been a view endorsed by four Chairmen and a majority of the Commission's members in office during that time: That FCC oversight is essential to protect the openness that is critical to the Internet's success. In recognition of this, the Commission has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to safeguarding that openness.

12.In 2004, former Chairman Michael Powell first articulated basic guiding principles for preserving Internet freedom in an address at Silicon Flatirons. Chairman Powell recognized that "consumers' hunger for an ever-expanding array of high-value content, applications, and devices"1 fueled investment in broadband networks as the "impressive generators of economic growth, innovation, and empowerment." He explained that "ensuring that consumers can obtain and use the content, applications and devices they want . . . is critical to unlocking the vast potential of the broadband Internet."2

13.A year later, reinforcing Chairman Powell's guidance, the Commission unanimously approved the Internet Policy Statement setting forth four general Internet policy principles intended "[t]o encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the Internet."1 Specifically, subject to "reasonable network management,"2 the principles entitle consumers to (1) "access the lawful Internet content of their choice;" (2) "run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement;" (3) "connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network;" and (4) enjoy "competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers."3

14.The Commission incorporated these open Internet principles in a series of merger proceedings. In 2005, the Commission conditioned approval of the SBC/AT&T and Verizon/MCI mergers on the merged entities' compliance with the Internet__Policy Statement .1 Although the Commission did not adopt any formal open Internet conditions on the Adelphia/Time Warner/Comcast transactions,the Commission made clear that its_Internet Policy Statement_ "contains principles against which the conduct of Comcast [and] Time Warner... can be measured."2 So too, in 2006, the Commission accepted the AT&T and BellSouth commitment to "maintain a neutral network and neutral routing in [the merged entity's] wireline broadband Internet access service," as a formal condition of the merger.3 Likewise, in the 2011 Comcast-NBCU merger, the Commission adopted the commitments of the merged entity to not "prioritize affiliated Internet content over unaffiliated Internet content . . . [or] treat affiliated network traffic differently from unaffiliated network traffic" as well as to comply with the Commission's open Internet rules, regardless of the effect of "any judicial challenge" affecting those rules.4

15.The Commission likewise incorporated openness principles for mobile services, adopting an open platform requirement for licensees in the Upper 700 MHz C Block in 2007.1 Specifically, the rules require Upper 700 MHz C-Block licensees to allow customers, device manufacturers, third-party application developers, and others to use or develop the devices and applications of their choice for Upper 700 MHz C-Block networks, provided those devices and applications meet all applicable regulatory requirements and comply with reasonable conditions related to management of the wireless network (i.e., do not cause harm to the network). Further, the Commission prohibited Upper 700 MHz CBlock licensees from disabling features or functionality in handsets where such action is not related to reasonable network management and protection, or compliance with applicable regulatory requirements.2

16.Also in 2007, the Commission unanimously adopted the Broadband Industry Practices Notice of Inquiry , explaining that vigilance and a willingness to act were necessary to keep the Internet open.1 The Broadband Industry Practices Notice specifically sought comment on whether the Internet__Policy Statement should be amended or expanded.2

17.Meanwhile, the Commission applied open Internet principles in the context of particular enforcement proceedings. Just before the Commission adopted the Internet Policy Statement , the Enforcement Bureau had entered into a consent decree with Madison River Communications, a telephone company and provider of digital subscriber line (DSL) service, arising from complaints by Vonage that Madison River was blocking ports that were typically used by Vonage customers to make Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone calls.1 The consent decree required Madison River to stop blocking VoIP ports and refrain from otherwise inhibiting customers from using the VoIP applications of their choice.2

18.In 2007, several parties filed complaints with the Commission alleging that Comcast was interfering with its customers' use of peer-to-peer applications in violation of the _Internet Policy Statement. 1 _Such applications allow users to share large files directly with one another without going through a central server, but also can consume significant amounts of bandwidth. In response, Comcast asserted that its conduct was a reasonable network management practice necessary to ease congestion.2 The Commission disagreed and, in a 2008 Order, concluded that the company's practice "contravene[d] ... federal policy" by "significantly imped[ing] consumers' ability to access the content and use the applications of their choice."3 As the Commission explained, Comcast's "practice unduly squelch[ed] the dynamic benefits of an open and accessible Internet," harm that was further compounded by Comcast's failure to disclose its practice to its customers.4 In the Comcast Order , the Commission asserted ancillary jurisdiction under Title I of the Communications Act and concluded that it could resolve the dispute through adjudication rather than rulemaking.5

19.Comcast challenged that decision in the D.C. Circuit, arguing (among other things) that the Commission lacked authority to prohibit a broadband Internet service provider from engaging in discriminatory practices that violate the four principles the Commission announced in 2005.1 On April 6, 2010, the D.C. Circuit granted Comcast's petition for review and vacated the Commission's enforcement decision. As to section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the court noted thatthe agency had previouslyinterpreted section 706 as not constituting a grant of authority and held that the Commission was bound by that interpretation for purposes of the case.2

20.While the Comcast case was pending, the Commission issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on whether the Commission should codify the four principles stated in the Internet Policy Statement , plus proposed nondiscrimination and transparency rules, all subject to reasonable network management.1

21.In December 2010, the Commission released the Open Internet Order ,adopting three basic rules grounded in the Commission's prior decisions and broadly accepted Internet norms.1 First, the _Order _imposed a transparency rule, requiring both fixed and mobile providers to "publically disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms" of their broadband Internet access service.2 The rule specified that such disclosures be "sufficient for consumers to make informed choices regarding the use of such services and for content, application, service, and device providers to develop, market, and maintain Internet offerings."3 Second, the _Order _adopted anti-blocking requirements. The rule barred fixed providers from blocking "lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices subject to reasonable network management."4 It prohibited mobile providers from blocking "consumers from accessing lawful websites," as well as "applications that compete with the provider's voice or video telephony services," subject to "reasonable network management."5 Third, the _Order _adopted an anti-discrimination rule for fixed providers, barring them from "unreasonably discriminat[ing] in transmitting lawful network traffic," subject to "reasonable network management."6

22.Verizon challenged the _Open Internet Order _in the D.C. Circuit on several grounds.1 It argued that the Commission lacked statutory authority to adopt the rules, that the blocking and non-discrimination rules violated the Communications Act by imposing common carriage regulation on an information service, that the _Order _was arbitrary and capricious, and that the rules violated the First and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

23.On January 14, 2014, the D.C. Circuit ruled on Verizon's challenge to the Open Internet Order .1 As discussed further below, the court upheld the Commission's reading that sections 706(a) and (b) of the Telecommunications Act grant the Commission affirmative authority to encourage and accelerate the deployment of broadband capability to all Americans through, among other things, measures that promote competition in the local telecommunications market or remove barriers to infrastructure investment.2 The court further held that the Commission could utilize that section 706 authority to regulate broadband Internet access service.3 It concluded that the Commission had adequately justified the adoption of open Internet rules by finding that such rules would preserve and facilitate the "virtuous circle" of innovation, demand for Internet services, and deployment of broadband infrastructure and that, absent such rules, broadband providers would have the incentive and ability to inhibit that deployment.4 The court therefore rejected Verizon's challenge to the transparency rule.5 However, the court struck down the "anti-blocking" and "anti-discrimination" rules, explaining that the Commission had chosen an impermissible mechanism by which to implement its legitimate goals. Specifically, the court held that the Commission had imposed _per se _common carriage requirements on providers of Internet access services.6 Such treatment was impermissible because the Commission had classified fixed broadband Internet access service as an information service, not a telecommunications service, and had classified mobile broadband Internet access service as a private mobile service rather than a commercial mobile service.7 The court remanded the case to the Commission for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

24.Today, we respond directly to that remand and propose to adopt enforceable rules of the road, consistent with the court's opinion, to protect and promote the open Internet. As the above history demonstrates, our action builds on the foundation begun under Chairman Powell, continued under Chairmen Martin and Genachowski, and reinforced by a decade of Commission policy.


X.A.The Continuing Need for Open Internet Protections

24.1.1.An Open Internet Promotes Innovation, Competition, Free Expression, and Infrastructure Deployment

25.In the Open Internet Order ,the Commission reiterated the conclusion underlying its prior policies—that the Internet's openness promotes innovation, investment, competition, free expression and other national broadband goals.1 The Commission also found that the Internet's openness is critical to its ability to serve as a platform for speech and civic engagement and can help close the digital divide by facilitating the development of diverse content, applications, and services.2 Further, the _Order _found that the benefits of Internet openness—increased consumer choice, freedom of expression, and innovation—applied to end users accessing the Internet using mobile services as well as fixed services.3

26.In the Open Internet Order ,the Commission specifically found that the Internet's openness enabled a "virtuous circle of innovation in which new uses of the network—including new content, applications, services, and devices—lead to increased end-user demand for broadband, which drives network improvements, which in turn lead to further innovative network uses."1 For example, the Commission explained that innovative streaming video applications and independent sources of video content have spurred end-user demand, which, in turn, has led to network investments and increased broadband deployment.2 By contrast, the Commission reasoned, "[r]estricting edge providers' ability to reach end users, and limiting end users' ability to choose which edge providers to patronize, would reduce the rate of innovation at the edge and, in turn, the likely rate of improvements to network infrastructure."3 As discussed further below, the Commission found that, despite the advantages of the virtuous circle, broadband providers have short-term incentives to limit openness, generating harms to edge providers and users, among others.4 Thus, the risk of broadband provider practices that may reward them in the short term but over the long run erode Internet openness threatens to slow or even break the virtuous circle—chilling entry and innovation by edge providers, impeding competition in many sectors, dampening consumer demand, and deterring broadband deployment—in ways that may be irreversible or very costly to undo. Also, innovation that does not occur due to lack of Internet openness may be hard to detect.

27.The Open Internet Order acknowledged that there were tradeoffs to consider in adopting the 2010 rules.1 The Commission concluded, however, that any small costs of imposing the rules were outweighed by the positive effect on network investment from the preservation of the openness that drives the virtuous circle, as well as the increased certainty in continued openness under the rules.2

28.The D.C. Circuit held that "the Commission [had] more than adequately supported and explained its conclusion that edge provider innovation leads to the expansion and improvement of broadband infrastructure."1 The court also found "reasonable and grounded in substantial evidence" the Commission's finding that Internet openness fosters the edge provider innovation that drives the virtuous circle.2

29.We believe that these findings, made by the Commission in 2010 and upheld by the court, remain valid. If anything, the remarkable increases in investment and innovation seen in recent years—while the rules were in place—appear to have borne out much of the Commission's view.1 Both within the network and at its edges, investment and innovation have flourished while the open Internet rules were in force.

30.According to a June 2013 report by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, for example, nearly $250 billion in private capital has been invested in U.S. wired and wireless broadband networks since 2009.1 USTelecom reports that broadband capital expenditures have risen steadily, from $64 billion in 2009 to $68 billion in 2012.2 Wireline providers alone invested $25 billion in 2012.3 And venture capital financing of "Internet-specific" businesses has doubled in the past four years, from $3.5 billion in 2009 to $7.1 billion in 2013.4 Annual investment in U.S. wireless networks grew more than 40 percent between 2009 and 2012, from $21 billion to $30 billion, and exceeds investment by the major oil and gas or auto companies.5

31.Whole new product markets have blossomed in recent years, and the market for applications has both diversified and exploded. **** A total of $8.33 billion has been raised since 2007 on mobile media ventures, a majority of the funds ($4.7 billion) to companies that provide software services, including mobile Web development, carrier-backend software, app development, and cloud-based services in the United States. In April 2010, Apple released the first version of the iPad, which launched the tablet market.1 The number of tablet users in the United States has increased from 9.7 million in 2010 to almost 70 million by the end of 2012, and is projected to grow to more than 160 million (approximately 50 percent of the U.S. population) by 2016.2 In 2013, over $1 billion in venture capital funding was invested in mobile media startups,3 and overall app use in 2013 posted 115 percent year-over-year growth.4 According to CTIA, in 2012 there were more than 20 independent non-carrier mobile application stores, offering over 3.5 million apps for 14 different operating systems.5 The Wall Street Journal reported in March 2013 that Apple and Google each offered about 700,000 apps, and that application sales were approaching $25 billion.6

32.Finally, we have seen tremendous growth in the online voice and video markets. The number of hours Americans spend watching video over the Internet has grown 70 percent since June 2010.1 Between 2010 and 2013, revenues from online video services grew 175 percent, from $1.86 billion to $5.12 billion.2 Real-time entertainment (that is, programming that is viewed as it is delivered, such as video streamed by Netflix and Hulu) grew from 42.7 percent of the downstream fixed access traffic at peak time (generally 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.) in 2010 to 67 percent of the downstream fixed access traffic at peak time by September 2013.3 VoIP usage has similarly continued to increase. The number of global over-the-top mobile VoIP subscribers increased by 550 percent in 2012.4

33.We have also, however, witnessed a growing digital divide that threatens to undo the work of the Commission's open Internet policies. As certain cities get connected with fiber or other technologies capable of providing broadband speeds of 25 Mbps up to 1 Gigabit, rural America and even some parts of urban America are falling farther and farther behind. Recent data suggest that a majority of Americans living in urban areas (64 percent) have access to at least 25 Mbps/10 Mbps service, while only a substantial minority of Americans residing in rural areas (only 21 percent) have access to that same 25 Mbps/10 Mbps service.1 We are similarly concerned as to whether advanced networks are being deployed to all Americans in urban areas, as the construction of new networks, especially competitive networks, is an outcome that must be encouraged.

34.In light of developments in the Internet ecosystem since 2010, we wish to refresh the record on the importance of protecting and promoting an open Internet. We seek comment on the current role of the Internet's openness in facilitating innovation, economic growth, free expression, civic engagement, competition, and broadband investment and deployment. Particularly, we seek comment on the role the open Internet rules have had in investment in the broadband marketplace—networks and edge providers alike. We are similarly interested in understanding the role that the open Internet may play in the promotion of competition or in identifying barriers to infrastructure investment that an open Internet may eliminate or lessen. We also seek comment on the role that the open Internet has for public institutions, such as public and school libraries, research libraries, and colleges and universities.1

35.Additionally, we seek comment on the impact of the openness of the Internet on free expression and civic engagement. For example, the percentage of Americans who use the Internet reached 87 percent in 2014—an increase of 8 percent from 2010, the year in which the _Open Internet__Order _was adopted—marking "explosive adoption" that has had "wide-ranging impacts on everything from: the way people get, share and create news . . . the way they learn; the nature of their political activity; their interactions with government; the style and scope of their communications with friends and family; and the way they organize in communities."1 In light of the important role that the Internet now plays as a vehicle for communication of all sorts—both for consumers and content providers—how should we consider the potential impact on social and personal expression of an Internet whose openness was not protected? For example, would there be particular impacts on political speech, on the ability of consumers to use the Internet to express themselves, or on the Internet's role as a "marketplace of ideas" that serves the interests of democracy in general, serving even the interests of those Americans who listen even if they do not actively speak?2 Are there other ways in which we should understand free-expression interests and whether they may be impaired by a lack of openness?3

36.At the same time, we are mindful of the possible tradeoffs the Commission recognized at the time it adopted the Open Internet Order .1 When it adopted the rules in 2010, the Commission's primary focus was on the market between broadband providers and their end-user subscribers. The record contained no evidence of U.S. broadband providers engaging in pay-for-priority arrangements, in which the broadband provider would agree with a third party to directly or indirectly prioritize some traffic over other traffic to reach the provider's subscribers.2 As such, the Commission found that such arrangements would be a "significant departure from historical and current practice."3

37.In the years since, this second side of the market—between broadband providers and edge providers or other third parties—has gotten increasing attention. In its arguments challenging the Order , Verizon expressed interest in pursuing commercial agreements with edge providers to govern the carriage of the edge providers' traffic.1 We also note that such arrangements between broadband and edge providers have begun to emerge. In January 2014, for example, AT&T launched a new sponsored data service, in which an edge provider enters an agreement with AT&T to sponsor and pay for data charges resulting from eligible uses of the sponsor's content by an AT&T mobile subscriber.2

38.We seek comment on the potential for, and development of, new business arrangements in the market between broadband providers and edge providers. What does the multi-sided market look like, and what are its effects on Internet openness? Do some types of broadband and edge provider arrangements (or aspects of such arrangements) raise greater concerns about Internet openness than others?1

38.0.1.Broadband Providers Have the Incentive and Ability to Limit Openness

39.The Open Internet Order found that broadband Internet providers had the incentives and ability to limit Internet openness, and that they had done so in the past.1 And the D.C. Circuit found that the Commission "adequately supported and explained" that absent open Internet rules, "broadband providers represent a threat to Internet openness and could act in ways that would ultimately inhibit the speed and extent of future broadband deployment."2 As discussed further below, we seek to update the record to reflect marketplace, technical, and other changes since the 2010 _Open Internet Order _was adopted that may have either exacerbated or mitigated broadband providers' incentives and ability to limit Internet openness. We seek general comment on the Commission's approach to analyzing broadband providers' incentives and ability to engage in practices that would limit the open Internet, as well as more targeted comment as addressed below.

40.As noted above, the Commission has pursued policies to safeguard Internet openness for over a decade. Thus, while the number of existing cases has been relatively few, we believe this to be primarily due to the fact that the Commission has had policies in place during the period in question that it has been ready to enforce.1 This is different from the experience under the European legal framework, which for the most part has not contained rules or policies prohibiting blocking and discriminatory practices like the Commission's open Internet regulatory policies.2 In the absence of such rules and policies, commenters note more instances of broadband providers engaging in some level of restriction in Europe than the Commission has witnessed in the United States under its open Internet policies.3 For example, a survey conducted by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) shows that European Internet service providers reported engaging in specific restrictions such as traffic degradation as well as blocking and throttling when accessing "specific applications (such as gaming, streaming, e-mail or instant messaging service) and, to a much lesser extent, when [accessing] specific content and application providers."4 We seek comment on this analysis and ask whether there is some other explanation to account for this phenomenon.

41.We also note that concerns related to the open Internet rules and norms have continued to occur. For example, in 2012, the Commission reached a $1.25 million settlement with Verizon for refusing to allow tethering apps on Verizon smartphones, based on openness requirements attached to Verizon's Upper 700 MHz C-Block license.1 In the same year, consumers also complained when AT&T refused to permit Apple's FaceTime iPhone and iPad application to use its mobile network, restricting its use to times when the end user was connected to Wi-Fi and thus to another broadband provider, although the Commission did not conclude whether such a practice violated our open Internet principles.2 We seek identification of, and comment on, actions taken by broadband providers—both domestically and internationally—since the adoption of the _Open Internet Order that have threatened or could potentially threaten the Internet's openness . _How should such incidents inform how we craft our rules on remand?

ao...a.Economic Incentives and Ability

42.In the Open Internet Order , the Commission found that providers of broadband Internet access service had multiple incentives to limit Internet openness. The _Order _concluded that the threat of broadband provider interference with Internet openness would be exacerbated by—but did not depend on—such providers possessing market power over potential subscribers in their choice of broadband provider. However, the Commission found that most residential customers have only one or two options for wireline broadband Internet access service, increasing the risk of market power, and found the future of mobile Internet access service as a competing substitute remained unclear.1 Moreover, the Commission emphasized that customers may incur significant costs in switching from one provider to another, thus creating "terminating monopolies" for content providers needing high-speed broadband service to reach end users.2

43.The D.C. Circuit found that the Commission's assessment of broadband providers' incentives and economic ability to threaten Internet openness was not just supported by the record but also grounded in "common sense and economic reality."1 It affirmed the Commission's conclusions that vertically integrated broadband providers have incentives to interfere with competitive services and that broadband providers generally have incentives to accept fees from edge providers.2 And the court cited with approval the Commission's conclusion that a broadband provider would be unlikely to fully account for the harms resulting from such practices.3 The court also upheld the agency's conclusion that such incentives could "produce widespread interference with the Internet's openness in the absence of Commission action."4 Finally, the court agreed that the Commission need not engage in a market power analysis to justify its rules, explaining that broadband providers' ability to block or disadvantage edge providers depended on "end users not being fully responsive to the imposition of such restrictions," not on "the sort of market concentration that would enable them to impose substantial price increases on end users."5

44.We seek to update the record underlying the Open Internet Order 's conclusion that broadband providers have incentives and the economic ability to limit Internet openness in ways that threaten to weaken or break the virtuous circle. How have changes in the marketplace or technology since 2010 affected broadband providers incentives and economic ability to engage in such practices? To what extent do broadband providers today have economic incentives and mechanisms to block or disadvantage a particular edge provider or class of edge providers? To what extent do vertically integrated providers have particularized incentives to discriminate—on price, quality, or other bases—in favor of affiliated products? What are broadband providers' incentives to increase revenues by charging edge providers for access or prioritized access to the broadband provider's end users? Are there features of the Internet ecosystem that facilitate or impede a broadband provider's ability to internalize the harms caused by practices that limit openness? Are there justifications for charging fees to edge providers that were not present in 2010? We seek comment on these and other economic incentives and abilities that broadband providers may have to limit openness.1

45.We generally seek comment on what economic tools broadband providers utilize to manage traffic on their networks. Broadband providers may address traffic management through commercial terms and conditions on end users, such as pricing for different levels of throughput or through the use of "data caps." To what extent and in what ways do broadband providers use such tools to manage traffic, such as by excluding certain content from such an end user data cap?1 Might these tools be used to exploit market power or reduce competition?

46.In addition, we seek comment on end users' ability to switch providers if a particular broadband service does not meet their needs. What is the extent of switching costs, and how do switching costs affect the incentives and economic ability of providers to limit Internet openness?1 As discussed in the Open Internet Order and affirmed by the D.C. Circuit, both edge providers seeking access to end users and end users seeking access to edge providers are subject to the gatekeeper effect of a retail broadband provider.2 Absent multi-homing, an end user has only one option to reach a given edge provider's content.3 To reach any given end user, an edge provider must ensure that it or its broadband provider can reach the end user's broadband provider. Terms and conditions, price, or lack of other broadband providers, among other factors, can raise switching costs to the point where switching is inefficient, infeasible, or even impossible.4 We seek comment on these conclusions. To what extent do consumers face significant switching costs in choosing to change broadband access providers? Which services, if any, are most vulnerable to a broadband provider's market power because of the inability to effectively reach subscribers through other means? To the extent that such switching costs exist, to what extent, if any, are they exacerbated by additional factors, such as the difficulty consumers may have in effectively monitoring the extent to which edge providers have difficulty reaching them, the number of effective substitutes a consumer may have among broadband providers, or the impact of bundled pricing and switching costs attached to the purchase or use of bundled services, such as a combined offering of broadband access along with video services and voice telephony? Would all likely alternatives have similar incentives to limit openness, possibly for a different set of services? We also seek comment on an end user's ability to switch broadband providers in response to specific broadband provider practice, for example a broadband provider's decision to charge an edge provider to reach the customer. Are switching costs relevant to an edge provider's interaction with a broadband provider and, if so, how? Finally, what are the implications when consumers have no ability to switch providers because there is only one provider offering service to the consumer's location?

47.We also seek comment on the state of competition in broadband Internet access service, and its effect on providers' incentives to limit openness. We seek comment on the appropriate view of whether broadband services with substantially different technical characteristics are competitive substitutes. For example, how should we regard the ability of DSL service with speeds of, for example, 3Mbps downstream and 768 kbps upstream to constrain conduct by a provider of high-speed broadband with speeds of, for example, 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream (or higher)? How should we regard the geography of broadband competition? From an end user's point of view, do national practices or market shares have any impact on edge providers, without regard to the definition of a geographic market?

48.In the fixed broadband context, we have seen evidence of limited choice between broadband providers in many areas of the country. As the speed threshold increases to 6 Mbps downstream and 1.5 Mbps upstream, the number of households that are located in census tracts with at least three providers that report serving customers at those higher speeds dips down to a mere 34percent.1 In many areas of the country, with respect to fixed Internet access, consumers may have only limited options, i.e., one or two fixed providers available.2 We seek comment on the extent to which commercial practices differ in places where consumers have only one choice of a wireline broadband provider, two choices, or more than two choices. We therefore also seek comment as to whether increased spectrum availability and technological developments in the mobile broadband marketplace, e.g., growth in 4G/ LTE availability, would affect the market power of fixed broadband providers.3

49.We further seek general comment on our approach towards analyzing broadband provider incentives. Under the Commission's reading, which the court upheld, our section 706 authority is not predicated on a finding of market power, specifically, that broadband providers need not be found to be "benefiting from the sort of market concentration that would enable them to impose substantial price increases on end users."1 Nor do we believe that the open Internet concerns described above solely arise in markets where broadband providers possess market power over subscriber prices. We recognize, however, that the presence or absence of market power—over broadband subscriptions, over end users once they have chosen a broadband provider, and over content providers who wish to reach those end users—may inform an understanding of a broadband provider's behavior in the Internet marketplace and its incentives to engage in practices that limit Internet openness. Thus, we seek comment on whether the Commission should engage in a market power analysis with respect to broadband providers and, if so, how we should go about that analysis.

50.We further seek comment on whether there are other economic theories that the Commission should consider to better understand and assess broadband providers' incentives to engage in practices that affect the Internet's openness. For example, do broadband providers have an incentive to extract rents from upstream services whose price significantly exceeds the marginal cost of delivering those services to an additional customer? Are there positive network effects from widespread adoption of broadband services by consumers that we should recognize?1 Do edge providers that incur significant sunk costs in the delivery of their output face "lock-in" problems if they become dependent on a particular pathway to their current or potential users? In the absence of open Internet protections, would those edge providers face uncertainty that would hamper their ability to attract capital? Does the trend towards the caching of content closer to end users either increase such lock-in problems or, separately, limit the number of pathways by which an edge provider's output can effectively reach current or potential end users? **** We seek comment on whether and how other theories and new evidence may supplement or supplant the original Open Internet Order analysis.

ax...a.Technical Ability

51.The Open Internet Order likewise found that broadband providers have the technical ability to limit Internet openness. As the _Order _explained, increasingly sophisticated network management tools enable providers to identify and differentiate the treatment of traffic on their own broadband Internet access service networks.1 The D.C. Circuit agreed, finding "little dispute that broadband providers have the technological ability to distinguish between and discriminate against certain types of Internet traffic."2 We seek comment on this general conclusion and on how this ability to impose restrictions on edge providers and end users has increased or decreased with further developments in technology or business practices since the Open Internet Order . We also seek comment on provider abilities that were not identified in the Open Internet Order or elsewhere in this Notice, including identifying the particular ability and its relevance to this proceeding. For example, one commenter has expressed concern about broadband providers offering prioritized service in a manner that may harm rural or minority end users.3Is it technically feasible for a broadband provider to block or degrade based on the location or neighborhood of the end user? Is it likely that it would do so? If so, how should our rules address this concern?

52.We seek comment on broadband providers' ability to limit Internet openness through management of traffic on their own networks and limitations imposed on their end users. Providers generally have the ability to manage traffic and congestion on their own networks and have developed a number of techniques to do so.1 For example, a provider can use technical methods like packet classification, admission control and resource reservation, rate control and traffic shaping, as well as packet dropping and packet scheduling to identify and manage traffic on its network.2 Such techniques may provide additional ability to discriminate in a way that is largely opaque to edge providers and end users.3We seek comment on the technical tools broadband providers can and do use to manage traffic on their networks.

53.The Open Internet Order found that providers had in fact used their ability to limit openness, citing several instances where broadband providers had been subject to Commission enforcement proceedings for violating open Internet norms.1 In the Order , the Commission cited the Madison River case, the Comcast-BitTorrent case, as well as various mobile wireless Internet providers' refusal to allow customers to use competitive payment applications, competitive voice applications, and remote video applications.2 The Commission also noted other allegations of blocking or degrading peer-to-peer traffic, but did not determine whether those specific practices violated open Internet principles.3 The D.C. Circuit noted these examples along with the Commission's as persuasive justification for adopting open Internet rules.4

BA.A.Scope of the Rules

54.The rules adopted in the _Open Internet Order _applied to "broadband Internet access service," which was defined as:

A mass-market retail service by wire or radio that provides the capability to transmit data to and receive data from all or substantially all Internet endpoints, including any capabilities that are incidental to and enable the operation of the communications service, but excluding dial-up Internet access service. This term also encompasses any service that the Commission finds to be providing a functional equivalent of the service described in the previous sentence, or that is used to evade the protections set forth in this Part.1

55.The _Order _defined "mass market" to mean a service marketed and sold on a standardized basis to residential customers, small businesses, and other end-user customers such as schools and libraries, including services purchased with support of the E-rate program.1

56.The _Verizon _decision upheld the Commission's regulation of broadband Internet access service pursuant to section 706 and did not disturb this aspect of the _Open Internet Order. _Thus, the definition of "broadband Internet access service" remains a part of the Commission's regulations. We tentatively conclude that we should retain this definition without modification. We seek comment on that conclusion. The court in Verizon also stated that, apart from the service provided to end users, "broadband providers furnish a service to edge providers, thus undoubtedly functioning as edge providers' 'carriers.'"1 We seek comment on whether this should be identified as a separate service and, if so, how we should define that service and what the regulatory consequences are, if any, of that definition.

57.We also seek comment on the following issues that arise in connection with the scope of the application of the rules we propose today.

58. Specifically Identified Services . The Open Internet Order excluded certain categories of services from the definition of broadband Internet access service, such as dial-up Internet access service1 and multichannel video programming, the latter of which the Commission understood not to meet the definition of _"_provid[ing] the capability to transmit data to and receive data from all or substantially all Internet endpoints."2 We tentatively conclude that we would maintain this approach, but seek comment on whether we should change this conclusion.

59._Enterprise Services. _The Open Internet Order excluded enterprise service offerings, which are typically offered to larger organizations through customized or individually negotiated arrangements.1Similarly, the _Open Internet Order _excluded virtual private network services, hosting, or data storage services. The Commission explained that such services "typically are not mass market services and/or do not provide the capability to transmit data to and receive data from all or substantially all Internet endpoints."2 The Open Internet Order also established that the rules did not apply to: (1)edge provider activities, such as the provision of content on the Internet;3 and (2) premise operators, entities like coffee shops or bookstores, which offer Internet access services to their patrons.4 We tentatively conclude that we would maintain this approach, but seek comment on whether we should change this conclusion.

60. Internet Traffic Exchange. The _Open Internet Order _explained that its rules did not apply beyond "the limits of a broadband provider's control over the transmission of data to or from its broadband customers."1 In other words, the _Order applied to a broadband provider's use of its own network but did not apply the no-blocking or unreasonable discrimination rules to the exchange of traffic between networks, whether peering, paid peering, content delivery network (CDN) connection, or any other form of inter-network transmission of data, as well as provider-owned facilities that are dedicated solely to such interconnection. _Thus, the _Order _noted that the rules were not intended "to affect existing arrangements for network interconnection, including existing paid peering arrangements."2 We tentatively conclude that we should maintain this approach, but seek comment on whether we should change our conclusion. Some commenters have suggested that we should expand the scope of the open Internet rules to cover issues related to traffic exchange.3 We seek comment on these suggestions. For example, how can we ensure that a broadband provider would not be able to evade our open Internet rules by engaging in traffic exchange practices that would be outside the scope of the rules as proposed?

61. Specialized Services. In the Open Internet Order , the Commission recognized that broadband providers may offer "specialized services" over the same last-mile connections used to provide broadband service. The Commission stated that these services can benefit end users and spur investment, but also noted the potential for specialized services to jeopardize the open Internet.1 Due to these concerns, the Commission stated that it would monitor these services, but that its rules would "not prevent broadband providers from offering specialized services such as facilities-based VoIP."2 We tentatively conclude that we should maintain this approach and continue to closely monitor the development of specialized services to ensure that broadband providers are not using them to bypass the open Internet rules or otherwise undermine a free and open Internet. We seek comment on this tentative conclusion. How can we ensure that the specialized services exception is not used to circumvent our open Internet rules? In addition, should specialized services be addressed within the scope of the "commercially reasonable" rule either as a safe harbor or among the factors for consideration?3 Should the Commission define "specialized services"?4

62. Reasonable Network Management . Although the Open Internet Order 'sdefinition of broadband Internet access service did not itself address reasonable network management, the concept was incorporated into each of the 2010 rules. Specifically, the transparency rule "does not require public disclosure of competitively sensitive information or information that would compromise network security or undermine the efficacy of reasonable network management practices."1 The 2010 no-blocking rule was made expressly subject to "reasonable network management."2 And the unreasonable discrimination rule expressly provided for reasonable network management, which was defined as follows: "A network management practice is reasonable if it is appropriate and tailored to achieving a legitimate network management purpose, taking into account the particular network architecture and technology of the broadband Internet access service."3 The Commission further concluded that it would "develop the scope of reasonable network management on a case-by-case basis."4 We tentatively conclude that we should continue the same approach. We seek comment on this conclusion as applied to an enhanced transparency rule, our re-adoption of the no-blocking rule, and the proposal to adopt a "commercially reasonable" standard. How can we ensure that the ability of providers to engage in reasonable network management is not used to circumvent the open Internet protections implemented by our proposed rules?

63. Mobile Services. The _Open Internet Order _also adopted definitions for "fixed" and "mobile" Internet access service. It defined "fixed broadband Internet access service" to expressly include "broadband Internet access service that serves end users primarily at fixed endpoints using stationary equipment, . . . fixed wireless services (including fixed unlicensed wireless services), and fixed satellite services."1 It defined "mobile broadband Internet access service" as "a broadband Internet access service that serves end users primarily using mobile stations."2 The impact of this distinction varied by rule. The transparency rule applies equally to both fixed and mobile broadband Internet access service. The no-blocking rule applied a different standard to mobile broadband Internet access services,3 and mobile Internet access service was excluded from the unreasonable discrimination rule. We tentatively conclude that we should maintain the same approach in today's Notice. We seek comment on this approach, which is discussed in more detail in the context of each of the proposed rules below. We recognize that there have been significant changes since 2010 in the mobile marketplace, including how mobile providers manage their networks, the increased use of Wi-Fi, and the increased use of mobile devices and applications. We seek comment on whether and, if so, how these changes should lead us to revisit our treatment of mobile broadband service. Specifically, we seek comment below on whether the no-blocking rule should continue to distinguish between fixed and mobile broadband4 and whether, under the commercially reasonable rule, mobile networks should be subject to the same totality-of-the-circumstances test as fixed broadband.5 In addition, how should the definitions of "fixed" and "mobile" services be applied to a fixed broadband provider's commercially deployed WiFi service that is made available to the provider's fixed broadband customers? How should such changes affect our treatment of reasonable network management for mobile providers? Similarly, how should we treatmobile services that are deployed and/or marketed as express substitutes for traditional telecommunications or broadband services? Finally, have there been changes in technology or the marketplace for the provision of satellite broadband Internet access service that should lead the Commission to reassess how its rules should apply to such services?

BK.A.Transparency Requirements to Protect and Promote Internet Openness

63.1.1.The 2010 Transparency Rule

64.In the Open Internet Order , the Commission concluded that effective disclosure of broadband providers' network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of service promotes competition, innovation, investment, end-user choice, and broadband adoption.1 To that end, the Commission adopted the following transparency rule:

A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service shall publicly disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of its broadband Internet access services sufficient for consumers to make informed choices regarding the use of such services and for content, application, service, and device providers to develop, market, and maintain Internet offerings.2

65.The Commission determined that the best approach to implementing the transparency rule was to allow broadband providers flexibility, while providing guidance concerning effective disclosure.1 The Commission stated that "effective disclosures will likely include" information concerning "some or all" of the following topics: (1) network practices, including congestion management, application-specific behavior, device attachment rules, and security measures; (2)performance characteristics, including a general description of system performance (such as speed and latency) and the effects of specialized services on available capacity; and (3) commercial terms, including pricing, privacy policies, and redress options.2 In 2011, the Commission's Enforcement Bureau and Office of General Counsel issued advisory guidance to further clarify compliance with the transparency requirements regarding point-of-sale disclosures, service descriptions, security measures, and the extent of required disclosures, while noting that "these particular methods of compliance are not required or exclusive; broadband providers may comply with the transparency rule in other ways."3

66.The D.C. Circuit's decision in Verizon v. FCC upheld the transparency rule, which remains in full force, applicable to both fixed and mobile providers.1 In today's Notice, we inquire as to ways that the transparency rule can be improved, taking into account changes in the nature of the provision of broadband services since 2010. We believe we have ample authority not only for our existing transparency rule, but also for the enhanced transparency rule we propose today, whether the Commission ultimately relies on section 706, Title II, or another source of legal authority. We seek comment on whether and how—if at all—the source of the Commission's legal authority relied upon to adopt other open Internet rules would affect the authority or authorities that provide the strongest basis for any improvements to the transparency rule or otherwise would inform how we define the goal of transparency in general.2

66.0.1.Enhancing Transparency to Protect and Promote Internet Openness

67."Sunlight," as Justice Brandeis has explained, "is . . . the best of disinfectants."1 If designed correctly, disclosure policies are among the most effective and least intrusive regulatory measures at the Commission's disposal.2 Applied here, the Commission continues to believe that access to accurate information about broadband provider practices encourages the competition, innovation, and high-quality services that drive consumer demand and broadband investment and deployment.3 The transparency rule thereby reflects the "virtuous circle" that, in the long term, unites the interests of end users, edge providers, and the broader Internet community. As the Commission explained in the Open Internet Order , disclosures under the rule: (1) help end users make informed choices regarding the purchase and use of broadband services and increase end users' confidence in broadband providers' practices; (2) ensure that edge providers have access to broadband providers' network information necessary to develop innovative new applications and services; and (3) inform the Internet community and the Commission about broadband providers' practices and conduct that could impact Internet openness.4

In today's Notice, we seek comment on the effectiveness of the existing transparency rule and on whether and, if so, how the rule should be enhanced to meet its goals with respect to end users, edge providers, the Internet community, and the Commission.

68.Today, we seek general comment on how well the Commission's existing transparency rule is working. We are especially interested in comments that describe the current operation, benefits, and shortcomings of the existing rule, how broadband providers are complying with it, and how we should measure such compliance.1 We are also mindful that the additional rules we propose today to protect Internet openness consistent with the D.C. Circuit's decision may place even greater importance on the extent to which information about broadband providers' practices is disclosed to end users, edge providers, and the Commission. Taking all of that into account, we tentatively conclude that we should enhance the transparency rule to improve its effectiveness for end users, edge providers, the Internet community, and the Commission. We seek comment on this tentative conclusion and on what burdens or compliance issues may be associated with this approach, including for smaller providers.

69._Tailored disclosures. _In the Open Internet Order , the Commission stated that broadband providers may be able to satisfy the transparency rule through use of a single disclosure, and therefore did not re

  • User profile image

    Loran man

    I don't support this open data policy, if I am being honest. I think this policy will just ask more legit? Questions from the writers who work on this site, and I would say that that is not what the City of Buffalo intended.

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    Anthony saviano

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