Tech giants fight for net neutrality

Tech giants fight for net neutrality

Summary: Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and other tech powerhouses are fighting for net neutrality with the federal regulator, and Mozilla has a concrete plan on how to make it happen.

(Image: Mozilla)

The battle lines are being drawn for the future of the Internet.

On one side, you have major last mile Internet providers (ISPs), such as Comcast and Verizon, demanding fees from popular Internet services such as Netflix for a fast lane on the Internet. On the other side, more than a hundred technology companies, including giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo, recently wrote to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking for its support for a "free and open Internet." 

It's not just the technology powerhouses that want net neutrality. The Ammori Group, a Washington DC-based public policy law-firm, which organized this lobbying effort, said the letter was "entirely driven by the small companies and the mid-sized companies."

It added that over 100 small companies signed letter before it included a single Silicon Valley technology titan.

"This letter reflects the beliefs of a wide range of companies, from the smallest, least resourced companies to the largest companies, that an unequal Web would stifle innovation, entrepreneurship and free expression," the group added.

Ammori and its allies stated:

"According to recent news reports, the Commission intends to propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers to discriminate both technically and financially against Internet companies and to impose new tolls on them. If these reports are correct, this represents a grave threat to the Internet.

Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission’s rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization, and should make the market for Internet services more transparent. The rules should provide certainty to all market participants and keep the costs of regulation low."

Mozilla, best known for its Firefox Web browser, also signed this letter, but the open-source company also has a more concrete plan for network neutrality.

In an earlier letter to the FCC, Mozilla's senior policy engineer Chris Riley wrote that the company is "asking the FCC to modernize its understanding of Internet access services, and apply its statutory authority for Internet data delivery services in a consistent and complete way."

He added that the FCC would be able to "shift its attention from authority questions once and for all," rather than adopting rules prohibiting blocking and discrimination online.

Mozilla is asking the FCC to re-categorize remote delivery services as telecommunications services. This, according to Riley, would be consistent with the guidelines set by both Congress and the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C., and, "would give the FCC ample ability to adopt and enforce meaningful net neutrality."

Specifically, Mozilla proposed:

  • "Last-mile, terminating access Internet routing is currently understood to include one type of commercial relationship: between an Internet provider and an end-user, connecting the end user to all Internet sites. We are challenging that understanding and proposing a modernization."

  • "We ask the FCC to recognize that technological evolution has led to two distinct relationships in the last mile of the network: the current one, between an ISP and an end user, which is unchanged, plus a “remote delivery” service offered by an ISP to an edge provider (Dropbox, in the image), connecting the provider to all of the ISP’s end users."

  • "In the key to our argument, we then ask the FCC to designate remote delivery services as telecommunications services under Title II of the Communications Act."

Because there has been some confusion on these points, Mozilla updated its posting to state that the petition asks the FCC to designate, not reclassify, remote delivery services as telecommunications services, because it wouldn't reverse existing precedents.

Mozilla also said it's not asking the FCC to apply the Title II code to peering and interconnection. And, it would not impose obligations on tech companies, and would safeguard them by "clearly delineating services."

In a phone interview with ZDNet, Riley said: "We have the same goals at the end of the day. We want clear rules, and the same rules for wireless and landline Internet. We're on a parallel track with the Ammori letter. The former describes the destination, the other is a road map."

Net neutrality has a history as long as the commercial Internet.

Before 1991, before Google, Facebook and Twitter — even before the Web, you couldn't do anything business-related on the Internet. Then, the National Science Foundation (NSF) decided to allow Advance Network and Services (ANS) to put commercial traffic on the NSFNET Backbone Service, part of the early-'90s Internet.

Soon thereafter, three companies, PSINet, UUNet, and CERFNet, formed the Commercial Internet Exchange (CIX) and by 1992 its commercial traffic was being integrated with the academic and government Internet and the Internet most of you know was well on its way to being born. One of its guiding principles was the concept we now know as net neutrality—that no sites would be blocked and no traffic would be metered or slowed.

Let's hope that we can return to the days of true net neutrality.

While some people doubt that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is open to such suggestions. Riley believes that Wheeler, and the FCC, may very well come to a new policy statement by the end of the year that will truly support net neutrality.

Let's hope Riley's right.

Related stories:

Topics: Networking, Broadband, Government US, Legal

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  • There's too much money in restriction

    The current American business plan is not capitalism -- human ingenuity and effort producing better and cheaper products for a mass market -- but mercantilism, controlling access to and limiting participation in everything from products to services in order to drive up costs.

    As long as this is the dominant paradigm for American business, there is no argument for net neutrality worth respecting. As long as people can be charged for their access to any Internet at all, and surcharged for everything that's "extra" -- VoIP, cloud services, backups, 4G-like connectivity, Web access from phones, speeds greater than 56K -- then they will be so charged, and more and more things will be found that are "extra" and deserving of even more surcharges. What's happened to the airlines will happen with your phone, your PC, and every other telecommunications system you touch, however peripherally.

    Get ready to pay for bush-league, Timbuctoo, Third-World Internet services at supra First World prices, America. You aren't paying enough. You still have blood.
    • Capitalism and mercantilism are compatible with each other

      Indeed, before WWII, most US conservatives were ardent supporters of both. Free trade has historically been the liberal position.
      John L. Ries
  • Sounds like Mozilla, and others, are asking that the FCC find a back-door

    to granting itself the powers which it doesn't have now.

    The internet is not part of the telecommunications act, therefore, the FCC has no regulatory powers over it.

    The current internet has not been violating the spirit of the early agreement, where "no sites would be blocked and no traffic would be metered or slowed".

    Sites aren't being blocked, other than those that might be violating current laws in the books. A site's "type of traffic" is not being blocked, and that's what people worried about. Traffic is not being metered or slowed. What is being slowed is the amount of traffic which consumes more bandwidth than what is ordinary and prudent and expected. Certainly, the original internet developers didn't have in mind that, there would be large files traffic which would consume so much bandwidth.
    • You are wrong!

      I Have been using & installing High Speed broadband internet Service since the early days.
      when you sign up for internet service from companies like:
      cablivision,time warner cable,rcn,verizon,at&t,Cox and other internet pay for unlimited internet traffic.with cablevision for exemple,for 15mbit you can leave your computer on months using utube,torrents,facebook,netflix (or any type of data).
      and they dont care what type of data you ARE using.if you have 15mbit thats unlimited with any type of data (video,audio,pics...)so verizon and AT&T wants to sell you something saying it is unlimited,but when you start to use it,it start to complain.those companies are very GREED.and people have choice.better choices !!! here some links of a fast and cheap internet services around The US.give a finger for those companies !!! visit each site and compare and you see why YOU TOO should in FAVOR OF NET NEUTRALITY !!! here the links:
      1gb $70/mo
      110 Mbps $49,95
      100 Mbps $64,99
      50 Mbps $55,00
      unlimited = unlimited
      data = audio,video,torrents,netflix,youtube (streaming)voip....
      • Oh, big deal, you install high speed internet; you still don't understand

        the issue.

        The issue is not about the bandwidth that you or I feel entitled to when we sign up for it, and pay for it.

        The issue is about the content which ties up or slows up the internet. That content is using the bandwidth that you and I paid for, and that the ISPs provide. Meanwhile, the content providers, like Netflix and Youtube, are using my broadband to enrich themselves, without paying me for the privilege. Sure, I connect to their service, and I might pay for the service, and I get the large files that I requested, but the fact remains that, the bandwidth that the content providers use, is free of charge to them, IOW, they're getting a free-ride to use an infrastructure that was paid for by the ISPs, and which I and all internet users pay to "rent". The content providers are getting a free part of the infrastructure which they need to get the content to their subscribers. It's like ABC or NBC or CBS, all getting their content delivered to their viewers, without paying for the communications equipment that is required to deliver that content. Netflix should, at least, help pay for the infrastructure that they're dependent on, and perhaps then, the ISPs can pass on a break to their broadband consumers.

        Myself, I wouldn't mind not paying to use a highway, if I could just depend upon someone else's fuel taxes paying for it. But, it would be unfair. Netflix and Youtube are using infrastructure that they're not paying for. It's easy to be in business, if part of the infrastructure is being paid by someone else.
        • Dishonest ISP's

          If ISP's want to charge for high speed Internet, they should advertise that up front and not try to gouge existing services because they are super greedy.
          • They're already charging for it

            And few people would have any objections to their doing so. The problem is that Comcast and other large ISPs are trying to charge both their own customers and the content providers for the same packets. The theory appears to be twofold:

            1. Large corporations with deep pockets can afford to pay more than residential customers can.
            2. Cable companies and telcos get to protect their government-issued franchises from competition provided over the Internet.
            John L. Ries
        • "Netflix and Youtube, are using my broadband to enrich themselves"

          No they aren't.

          If you didn't connect to the remote services there would be NO TRAFFIC.

          You paid the ISP for the traffic you want - thus it is ALREADY PAID FOR.
          • Thanks

            Adornoe@ insisting the other poster does not know what he is talking about, then goes on to make a statement like that. Funny. I think he may not understand quite as much as he thinks.

            You are correct, and from a consumer perspective, I expect reasonable performance when I pay high prices for bandwidth, especially when I buy something ,more than the lowest tier, knowing I will be utilizing it for video. it is my expectation that, within reason, my ISP use this income to ensure performance.

            There has to be a better model for this. Surely if more and more customers buy, for instance, a "quantum" tier, it is reasonable to expect that the ISP take some of that and invest in peering across the board. The same goes the other way. A company like Netflix probably pays through the nose for access. Why wouldn't, say, their ISP Cogent (I think), use part of that income to ensure the money Netflix pays is directed toward peer enhancements? This is, after all, where most of the traffic is directed, to consumer broadband networks.

            I think the root of the problem is the players in the middle. Both want to keep the money without making reasonable investments in the areas where their customers need it. In the end, it is the end user who pays, pays and pays again! Instead of peering agreements, it should be more direct. If Netflix is delivering X amount of mbits to the network as a whole, what they pay should reflect the requirements of this delivery, including both the local leg as well as peering.
          • The problem is that, neither you nor jessepollard, are capable of

            understanding the issue.

            The issue is not that you and I already paid for the content, and should get that content. The issue is not that we already paid for the bandwidth. The issue is not that the ISPs are just trying to milk us for more money.

            Use your head a little bit, and you might be able to understand the real issue.

            Look at my post in response to jessepollard just before this...
          • You're as dumb as a rock!

            I paid for my broadband. I expect to get what I paid for. I want to connect to any content I wish. I want to download big files, and small files, and all files in-between. I want movies and funny videos, and I don't care what length they are. I don't even care what company is providing that content.

            The problem, which you and many others can't seem to grasp your little brains around, is that, the content provider is taking advantage of MY BROADBAND, and the bandwidth that is available from the ISPs. IOW, the content providers are getting a "free ride" from something that belongs to me and that the ISPs spent money to create. The content providers are still getting rich from my bandwidth, which I paid for. The ISPs are getting my money. The content providers might also be getting my money. But, the content provider is not compensating me for the use of my broadband, and they're also not compensating the ISPs for their infrastructure.

            If I pay for using a toll road, and the toll road was constructed by a company that expects to get paid for the usage of the road, then, a truck company that delivers a package to me (for which I paid delivery charges), has no right to use the toll road free of charge while delivering that package to me. Usage of the toll road by the delivery truck, constitutes an unfair advantage to the truck company, and they should be charged for using it. The truck company is already making money off me, so, why can't they pay their "fair" amount to the toll-road operator/owner? If that truck company has many trucks using the toll-road, then, they're using heavy "bandwidth" while delivering content to consumers, but, they would be getting a "free ride".

            Netflix nor Youtube, paid for the infrastructure that gets content delivered to people's homes. ABC/CBS/NBC/CNN/FOX, all spent to create their own infrastructure to deliver content to people's homes; so, why should Netflix or Youtube not have to construct their own infrastructure, or at least pay to rent infrastructure that was created by some other company?
    • Standard response

      That would be bandwidth that the users of services like Netflix are already paying for (and owners of those services are already paying their own ISPs for). The question is whether ISPs should be able to charge content providers they don't directly serve for expedited handling of their traffic. Says me, if Comcast has the right to do that, then so does every other ISP on the planet, which is a large number. Regulation wouldn't be required if the market were really free, but broadband internet is an oligopoly (meaning an only partially free market) in most of the country and is likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future,unless the owners of the wires and transmission towers are required to sell access to all comers at non-discriminatory rates, which isn't terribly likely.

      Not surprising that MS et al don't want that precedent to stand either.

      I define a free market as one in which vendors, consumers, employers, and workers have maximal and equal freedom to trade as they think proper; a market that's only free for the largest vendors doesn't qualify.
      John L. Ries
      • You too, don't understand the issue...

        and you're being simplistic in how you view the issue.

        Read my comments above in response to BrazilMan2014gv.
        • It's possible I don't understand

          " Sure, I connect to their service, and I might pay for the service, and I get the large files that I requested, but the fact remains that, the bandwidth that the content providers use, is free of charge to them"

          As far as the ISP is concerned, it's the end user (the ISP's customer) that is generating that traffic and he is the one paying for it.; likewise the content provider is paying for the traffic he generates at his end.

          Your example might be an argument for metered service, but not for abandoning net neutrality. Following traditional policy, the end user pays his ISP at his end, and the content provider pays his ISP from his end, and both ISPs pay the backbone providers (directly or indirectly). But the end user doesn't have to pay the content provider's ISP (the content provider is responsible for that) and the content provider doesn't have to pay the end user's ISP (the end user is responsible for that). And this is reasonable because the very same packets are being paid for at both ends of the connection and indirectly at every point in between (assuming that none of the participating networks are being hacked). Nobody is getting a free ride unless a participating network chooses to give it to him.

          What's not reasonable is to expect people to have to directly pay every network through which his packets might pass, as he only has any control over the one is sends them to or receives them from directly (the one(s) to which he connects directly). It is no more reasonable to expect Netflix or any of the other providers you mention to pay every ISP through which its packets might pass for expedited service than it would be to expect you or me to do so (but nobody's going to demand that as it would not be profitable).

          So what am I not understanding? I don't need to respond to the rest of what you wrote, as it is a mere elaboration on the statement I quoted.
          John L. Ries
          • Contrasting with spam

            In the case of e-mail, the sender is paying his ISP to send the messages out and the recipient is paying his to deliver them to him; but if the recipient doesn't actually want any of the unsolicited messages he gets, he has to pay for them anyway, unless his own ISP blocks the traffic (even if the end user blocks delivery). And the owner of the mail server has to store the unwanted messages until the end user retrieves them and deletes them from the server. The consequence is that the owner of the recipient mailserver (ends up paying for traffic his users didn't ask for and don't want.

            Contrast this further with paper mail which is, in almost all cases, paid for by the sender. The single exception is in the case of postage due, in which case the recipient has the privilege of refusing delivery if he doesn't want to pay. The very same applies to commercial parcel delivery services such as Federal Express and UPS. There's always someone paying and nobody is paying for letters or parcels he doesn't want (except for perhaps frank mailings from public officials, which are paid for by the taxpayers).
            John L. Ries
          • The problem that you fail to understand is that, the issue is not about

            "net neutrality".

            Net neutrality is a misnomer for the issue at hand.

            The type of content is not in question. People can get whatever type of content they wish to connect to. Nobody is arguing THAT ISSUE.

            The argument is about the size of the content, and the issue is that, the content providers are taking advantage of an infrastructure that consumers pay for, and that is created by the ISPs. IOW, the infrastructure is basically, "free of charge" to the content providers, and that is what the ISPs want to change. The ISPs are not talking about blocking the type of content, and not even the size of the content. They are asking the content providers to pay their "fair share" for the usage of the pipelines.

            The issue is misnamed; it's not about "net neutrality". It should rightfully be called something like, "content size abuse".
          • What you completely overlook..

            is that the ISPs want what most of us would call "double-dipping." They want content providers to pay for their traffic to the end user and the end users to pay for the traffic they receive. In effect, they want to play the role of UPS but they want both parties to each pay the entire cost of shipping the package.
          • re:The problem that you fail to understand is that, the issue is not about

            > the content providers are taking advantage of an
            > infrastructure that consumers pay for

            So are the ISPs. I'm talking about the electrical grid infrastructure. I need electricity to get online and without it I would have no need to pay the ISP. By your logic, the ISP is getting a free ride by using my electricity. What if my electric co said, "hey, 35 percent of the electricity we provide is used to power computers to access the IPS's services, so pay up ISP!" You might say, well the electric company is looking to get paid twice for the same kwH. And you'd be right.

            > The ISPs are not talking about blocking the type
            > of content, and not even the size of the content.
            > They are asking the content providers to pay
            > their "fair share" for the usage of the pipelines.

            The only way an ISP can convince a content provider to pay it is if the ISP has the ability and willingness to block its users from accessing the provider's content. So, yes, they are talking about blocking and that's why they need to be regulated. The ISPs should not be able to dictate what legal content their customers can access.
            none none
  • Reclassify the ISPs

    The FCC made its first error when it declined to classify ISP services as telcom when it had the opportunity. Now, it should follow the guidance of the FCC vs Verizon court and promptly reclassify.

    I respect and share Tom Wheeler's preference for open markets, but open markets do not exist in nature. Markets are increasingly becoming skewed, and the market in the last-mile choke-hold is far from open. It needs to be regulated in the public interest.
    none none
    • The FCC doesn't have the power to classify ISP services.

      The internet does not fall into the same guidelines that traditional telecommunications falls under.

      Getting around the rules and the law, which is what Mozilla suggests, would get the FCC swatted down. The laws come from congress, and the FCC can only issue regulations, but, they can't issue regulations in an industry that is not under their regulatory powers.