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MLB Throws Bean Ball At FCC's 'Commercially Reasonable' Regime

In a filing in the FCC's network neutrality rule docket, MLB Advanced Media, the arm that oversees the MBL.TV subscription service and other online video, says that cable is the only game in town for many viewers and that inadequate broadband competition should inform the FCC's network neutrality policy, which should be to prevent ISP's from charging Internet content providers, like MLB, for faster or preferential treatment.

The Commission would be rolling the dice by allowing 'commercially reasonable' fast lane deals, subject to amorphous regulations and limited oversight capability," MLB said. "We are equally as concerned about how fast/slow lane regulations could be adequately enforced."

"As the nation's largest edge provider of live event video, we fail to see how the proposed regulatory scheme could provide the type of timely enforcement that would be needed to adequately protect against such harms," MLB said.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler followed the advice of a D.C. federal court in proposing to reconfigure the old Open Internet order's ban on unreasonable discrimination into an allowance for commercially reasonable discrimination, given that the court threw out that ban because smacked too much of applying common carrier regs to Internet access service, which the FCC defines as an information service not subject to mandatory access.

MLB sees too much downside to the approach. "We urge the Commission to prohibit Broadband ISPs from charging Internet content distributors ("Edge Providers") for faster or otherwise preferential delivery of content to American consumers.

Wheeler has gotten lots of pushback from Silicon Valley on the proposal. Wheeler has said the fast and slow lanes won't be commercially reasonable, but a case-by case approach leaves the determination to a politically appointed FCC whose dynamics can change with elections.

The court also said the FCC could reclassify ISP's under Title II if it chose to.

Currently the FCC's no-unreasonable discrimination and no-blocking rules don't apply, except to Comcast, which agreed to abide by them as part of the NBCU merger.