New Net Rules Include Interconnection Complaint Regime

According to sources, the FCC's new open Internet rules, a draft of which is expected to be circulated Feb. 5, will include interconnection, at least to the extent that the FCC will look on a case-by-case basis at whether a paid peering deal's access fees have the effect of degrading access in violation of network neutrality rules.

That would be a way to work the issue into the rules, but with a case-by-case approach that is similar to the program access regime. That might not please activists seeking stronger Interconnection language since many feel the program access complaint regime has not worked very well.

According to a source familiar with the proceedings who spoke not for attribution, the idea is that a Netflix or Cogent could complain that a paid peering deal is an effort to "extort" fees, but the rule would not include a specific interconnection-related regulation, only the opportunity to make the case that such interconnection fees have the effect of violating a no-blocking or degrading rule.

That would appear to be only a one-way street, as in only the edge provider, not the carrier, could complain about the deals since it is based on price and the edge provider is the one paying.

The key for the Netflix's and Cogents', said the source, will be how strong the FCC guidance on such interconnection complaints is. "Will they get something that makes them feel confident the FCC will take these complaints seriously? Or will the language suggest that the FCC will rely on "market negotiations" to set interconnection prices?"

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has said that he sees peering as a separate issue, but  one that he has concerns with. But Netflix and others have been pushing to apply nondiscrimination to that traffic, not just the nondiscriminatory access to content by ISP customers

(, and the chairman may have found a way to finesse interconnection into the new rules.

Neftlix has pushed for bringing interconnection under the network neutrality regime, saying that ISP's are extorting money out of them using their power over the last-mile connection to the home. ISP's counter that Netflix slowed traffic to make its issue in Washington and that peering, including paying for traffic exchanges, is an accepted business practice and that Netflix is trying to get out of paying.

A spokesperson for the chairman had no comment on the draft, echoing the chairman's no comment at a press conference following the FCC's public meeting Jan. 29.

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.