Netflix is urging the FCC to reclassify the Internet as a telecommunications service, a move that they say would give the commission the solid authority it needs to establish robust net neutrality rules.
The streaming service’s position, outlined in a filing with the FCC on Wednesday, recommends that the commission take a bold regulatory move that is fiercely opposed by broadband providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon as unnecessary and burdensome. The Internet Assn., the trade association which represents major Internet companies like Netflix, Google, Facebook and eBay, stopped short of recommending such an approach.
The FCC currently classifies the Internet as an information service, or ‘Title I’ in regulatory jargon. Many public interest groups are recommending that the commission reclassify broadband as a “Title II” telecommunications service, giving the FCC the same kind of authority it has over the phone company.
But Netflix, in its filing, argues that “Title II provides [the FCC with] a solid basis to adopt prohibitions on blocking and unreasonable discrimination by ISPs. Opposition to Title II is largely political, not legal.”
It also said that the FCC could adopt such authority but stop short of using “overreaching regulation.” Rather, Netflix contends, it could reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service to reestablish the net neutrality rules that have been struck down in court “and could go further only in the face of truly troubling actions on the part of Internet access.”
Netflix’s position is not a surprise, given that its CEO, Reed Hastings, has pushed for strong net neutrality rules in blog posts. He also has urged the FCC to cover another issue of the Internet ecosystem, that of interconnection. Those are the agreements between networks to connect content for delivery to the consumer. Netflix reached such an agreement with Comcast earlier this year, but Hastings complained that Comcast and other ISPs were poised to exploit a potential new revenue stream. Comcast has objected to Netflix’s arguments, characterizing it as an effort by the streaming service to pass off costs to all Internet customers, even those who don’t subscribe to Netflix.
In their filing with the FCC, Netflix said that it is not a “free rider.”
“Netflix does not pay Comcast for transit. Nor does Netflix pay Comcast for priority treatment of its traffic. In effect, Netflix pays access fees — without which Comcast has refused to provide sufficient capacity for Netflix. movies and TV shows to enter its network and reach our mutual customers directly and without degradation.”