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FCC ‘Connects’ With ISP Critics

WASHINGTON — Fans of the Federal Communications Commission’s network-neutrality rules have not wasted any time staking out new ground in regulating Internet-service providers, with interconnection, newly added to the agency’s agenda, getting much of the early attention.

Last week saw the first publicly announced network neutrality complaint under the new rules, when Web-content hosting company Commercial Network Services filed an informal complaint against Time Warner Cable.

CNS wants the FCC to force TWC into a settlement-free peering deal, and require that other ISPs using public-network interchanges adopt an “open” peering policy, which means free as well.

It is unclear how the FCC will react to that complaint. The complaint asserts that TWC interconnection policies violated new bright-line rules against throttling and paid prioritization, while the FCC, in adding interconnection to its net neutrality rule regime, said those bright-line rules did not apply. The FCC took a case-by-case approach to complaints about whether or not interconnection policies impeded an open Internet.

But no matter how the FCC rules, that complaint, in concert with warnings from backbone providers, made it clear that cable-operator concerns about the leverage the complaint process would give them in interconnection negotiations was bearing out.

“This wholly predictable complaint confirms the harms created when the government intervenes in healthy markets and encourages disgruntled businesses to seek regulatory rents,” cable’s biggest trade group, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, said following the complaint’s filing.

Elsewhere, Cogent and Level 3 Communications, two backbone providers who have complained about peering issues — congested ports, having to pay for interconnections — signaled the “or else” behind the new complaint process.

Level 3 senior vice president and general counsel Mike Mooney said the company was pleased to have struck deals with Verizon, AT&T and Comcast, but had a message for those that had not reached agreements with the company.

“If an ISP refuses to add the necessary interconnection capacity required to prevent consumers from suffering bad online experiences, we will have little choice but to make the FCC aware of it, particularly since such conduct would be inconsistent with the behavior of the rest of the industry,” he told Multichannel News.

Cogent CEO Dave Schaeffer provided even more insight into what he was looking for from ISPs — or else.

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.