Eshoo: Net Neutrality Rules Could Leave Door Open to Discrimination

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) is taking a not quite trust but verify approach to the FCC proposed new network neutrality rules.

Eshoo, who represents some Silicon Valley players who might have to pay extra for priority service if the FCC allows paid priority under the new rules, said she feared that the new rules "will not do enough to curtail discrimination of Internet traffic, but rather leave the door open to discrimination under more ambiguous terms."

Rather than ban unreasonable discrimination, as did the old rules, the new ones would allow "commercially reasonable" discrimination according to a multi-pronged test including consumer-friendliness, competition and not favoring co-owned content, so the FCC would still have the power to prevent some forms of discrimination, while allowing others.

In essence discriminating among discrimination with the key being whether or not it adversely impacts consumers, competition, innovation or investment.

But like many others, Eshoo is concerned about the discrimination the rules might allow.

“For me to support 'commercially reasonable' agreements between financially liquid online content companies and broadband providers for faster Internet speeds, there must be zero uncertainty left in the minds of consumers, small businesses and innovators that they are competing on a level playing field with their peers," she said. "Fundamentally, consumers and businesses must be protected from actions by online gatekeepers that threaten free speech, harm competition or diminish the continued openness of the Internet.

“I will stringently evaluate the Chairman's proposal to ensure that these core values are elevated by any final net neutrality rules.”

Eshoo is ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee, whose chairman is no fan of the new rules.

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.