Matthew Rutledge Newly anointed Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said this week that it would be OK for Internet service providers to charge Netflix and other companies for a faster lane to consumers. Wheeler’s stance is surprising given that it appears to contradict the FCC’s Open Internet Order, passed under his predecessor in 2010. That order, which sets out the country’s network neutrality rules, says that fixed broadband providers may not “unreasonably discriminate” against any type of traffic.

The order specifically calls out pay-for-play arrangements as being potential violations. “[B]roadband providers that sought to offer pay-for-priority services would have an incentive to limit the quality of service provided to non-prioritized traffic,” the rules state. “For a number of reasons…

A commercial arrangement between a broadband provider and a third party to directly or indirectly favor some traffic over other traffic in the broadband Internet access service connection to a subscriber of the broadband provider (i.e. ‘pay for priority’) would raise significant cause for concern. … [A]s a general matter, it is unlikely that pay for priority would satisfy the ‘no unreasonable discrimination’ standard.” 3     

Leave a Reply