Introduction and Summary for Congressional Staff
Attached is a fresh approach to "network neutrality." It recognizes that the Internet is, in fact, neutral. Neither slick promotions offering “premium” or “exclusive” services, nor thoughtful legislation, can change that. Any service offered by one of the many networks that form a part of the “network of networks” called “the Internet” which favors the delivery of some data packets over others based on their content, source or destination, is simply not “the Internet.” To pass off access to specially modified networks as “Internet access” is false and deceptive.
In over thirty years of global standards and Internet service provider behavior, Internet participants have come to assume that their traffic will be passed without interference. Because the global “Internet Protocols” of the Internet are based on this concept, neutrality is inherent in it. So, when Congress seeks to preserve network neutrality, it need not do so by “regulating the Internet,” as it would be difficult and unnecessary to legislate fundamental global protocols of Internet router behavior. Rather, it is far better to allow Internet-connected services and specially-tailored networks (even if perceived as more valuable to some) to compete freely in the marketplace, regulating those who would misrepresent them as “Internet” services or “Internet access.” This has the critical advantage of not allowing the standards to be overridden by these custom modifications. Without standards, there is no competition or ability to connect between networks.
For as long as we have had an Internet, we have also had “local area networks,” or LAN’s, typically operated within a single company. Today, major network access providers have the capability of offering very large LAN’s, and even networks of LAN’s, which may look a lot like the Internet to many unsuspecting consumers. If such LAN providers happen to be the only viable choice for Internet access, they will have the power, working with a few major corporations, to replace the Internet access for millions of Americans with access to a “walled garden” containing only such portion of the Internet as they allow, and in which only those companies willing and able to pay will be able to have access – or best access – to their subscribers. It may be the case that some consumers will prefer the more limited access being offered, but such offers must compete on their own merits, and not at the loss of an open, consistent, and predictable platform for the transport of innovative products and services by all. Conversely, if networks that treat applications specially wish to create a global network consistent with their practices, they can enter into appropriate processes and work to develop standards.
Thus, this proposal recommends that Congress authorize the Federal Trade Commission to enforce a prohibition on false and deceptive representations pertaining to “Internet access” while leaving innovative networks free to develop their own proprietary services, so long as their nature is not misrepresented. This approach will enable consumers to make informed comparisons among the Internet access being offered as distinct from other products and services offered by their Internet access providers, while assuring that anyone who purchases true Internet access will get what they bargained for – access to the global Internet, unfettered communications throughout the globe, and access by myriad competitors, individuals, advocates, and news sources whose products, services and communications can be made available to them on a level playing field.