Edge Giants Pitch Pai on Preserving Title II-Based Rules

An association representing edge provider powerhouses met with FCC chair Ajit Pai Tuesday (April 11) to argue for preserving the FCC's Title II-based Open Internet order. That comes as Pai is pondering how to roll back Title II, including by potentially having ISPs sign on to voluntary Open Internet principles that would then be enforceable by the Federal Trade Commission.

The Internet Association, whose members include everyone from Amazon to Zenefits (that would be Google, Facebook, ebay, Netflix, Microsoft, Yahoo and a laundry list of others) met with Pai and top staffers to argue for retaining the rules, according to the association.

"IA continues its vigorous support of the FCC’s Open Internet Order, which is a vital component of the free and open Internet," the tech companies told Pai, according to an ex parte document filed with the FCC and confirmed by a spokesperson for the group. "The Internet industry is uniform in its belief that net neutrality preserves the consumer experience, competition and innovation online. In other words, existing net-neutrality rules should be enforced and kept intact."

That is unlikely given that the current FCC Republican majority opposes Title II reclassification and Pai has made it clear he thinks net neutrality can be preserved without classifying ISPs as common carriers under Title II.

The IA argues that the Title II did not have the adverse impact on broadband investment ISPs have argued was the case. Former FCC chair Tom Wheeler, who motormanned the Title II order with an assist from President Obama, has also said the ISP argument about depressing investment was a red herring.

While it had Pai’s ear, the IA also argued that there was a qualitative difference between edge providers and ISPs that justified different treatment of broadband privacy.

It said that includes the fact that Internet access service have “higher financial, legal, and technical market entry barriers as well as high customer switching costs when compared to edge provider markets” and that “edge providers have more limited visibility into online practices and consumer Information,” a conclusion that it said the FTC has also drawn in concluding that ISPs are “in a position to develop highly detailed and comprehensive profiles of their customers – and to do so in a manner that may be completely invisible.”

Congress two weeks ago nullified the FCC’s broadband privacy rules, which required opt-in consent from ISP subscribers for sharing their personal information with third-party marketers that edge providers can share without that opt-in consent.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.