Mozilla To FCC: Hey, There's Another Way To Protect Net Neutrality
from the have-you-thought-of-this? dept
Mozilla's plan is a somewhat crafty attempt to avoid the worst of the political mess that reclassification would cause, by arguing that there are two separate markets: the markets for broadband providers to end users (i.e., our own broadband bills) and then a separate market for the relationship between internet companies (what Mozilla is calling "edge providers") and the broadband providers. Mozilla is saying that since these are separate markets, the FCC could reclassify just the connection between internet companies and broadband providers as telco services, and leave the last mile setup unchanged as an information service. Thus, it's arguing that the transit market more accurately reflects a telco service, and thus would be much easier to reclassify. In a sense, this would also be a way to attack the interconnection problem, which is where the net neutrality debate has effectively shifted.
As Stacey Higginbotham notes, this is a way that Mozilla is more or less calling FCC boss Tom Wheeler's bluff concerning his willingness to use Title II reclassification -- opening up a way to do so with (just slightly) less political fallout (and probably a more legally defensible argument in court for why it's reclassifying). Karl Bode is reasonably skeptical that Wheeler or the FCC would ever actually go this route, given the general "lack of spine" the FCC has shown for years on these issues. On top of all that, Wheeler himself still doesn't seem willing to admit (publicly, at least) that the fights over interconnection and access are related to the net neutrality problem, so he'd have to make that leap before necessarily agreeing to try this path.
Still, that doesn't mean it's a bad idea. In fact, by making it just slightly more feasible both politically and (importantly) legally, there's a chance that maybe, just maybe, the FCC will seriously look at this option. I'll agree that the probability is still quite low, but it's not zero. There do appear to be folks in the FCC who have been desperately seeking alternatives to the current, unpalatable options on net neutrality, and Mozilla's suggestion offers a path that is less politically and legally fraught than full reclassification. It would still be a massive leap, and would require an FCC with a spine (which makes it unlikely), but it's just that much more likely than full reclassification to make things interesting.