Apple Joins Latest Battle Over Net Neutrality

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WASHINGTON — Apple, the world’s largest company by market capitalization, rarely gets involved in the policy debates raging in Washington.

But it did make a last-minute appeal for a robust set of net neutrality rules.

Even though the latest battle has been going on for months, and the overall debate for more than a decade, the company waited until the last day to file comments with the FCC to weigh in.

In its filing, the company outlined a number of concerns, but one that stood out is its opposition to loosening restrictions that would allow internet service providers to charge companies for speedier access to the consumer. The fear over such “paid prioritization,” as it is called, was a chief reason for the FCC when it passed a robust set of net neutrality rules in 2015.

“Broadband providers should not create paid fast lanes on the internet,” Apple said in its filing. “Lifting the current ban on paid prioritization arrangements could allow broadband providers to favor the transmission of one provider’s content or services (or the broadband provider’s own online content or services) over other online content, fundamentally altering the internet as we know it today — to the detriment of consumers, competition, and innovation.”

Apple has a vested interest in the issue, including its own forays into content.

In May, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai put up for public comment a proposal to rollback the FCC’s designation of internet service as a Title II communications service. That regulatory maneuver allowed the FCC to impose rules in 2015 banning paid prioritization and blocking and throttling of content. Net neutrality advocates say that repealing Title II will weaken net neutrality and jeopardize the FCC’s authority.

Apple didn’t weigh in on Title II, and said that it was “open to alternative sources of legal authority, but only if they provide for strong, enforceable, and legally sustainable protections, like those in place today.” Its filing came from Cynthia Hogan, its vice president of public policy.

Apple’s involvement in the issue could help draw additional public interest in the issue, particularly if the FCC repeals Title II and, as is expected, it is taken up by Congress and the courts.