Verizon: 'Title II Is Not The Answer... Except When It Gives Us Massive Subsidies, Then It's Totally The Answer'

from the read-the-fine-print dept

Oh, Verizon. When all the big broadband providers filed their original comments with the FCC concerning its net neutrality/open internet proposal, Verizon's comments were a little different than the others. Comcast and AT&T were pretty effusive in supporting FCC boss Tom Wheeler's proposal to rely on Section 706 rather than Title II. Verizon, however, seemed to push back against any new rules, even under 706. Verizon noted that it wanted to do whatever the hell it wanted, even if it meant "differentiated services" (i.e., paid prioritization, fast lanes, slow lanes, etc.):
...consumer welfare is best protected if the Commission allows broadband Internet access service providers to manage their networks and—if they so choose—offer differentiated services or implement sophisticated pricing strategies as long as those practices do not harm competition.

In assessing whether a practice harms competition, it is essential not to confuse harm to competitors with harm to competition. The Commission has stated “We believe that consumers of broadband access service should have the ability to exercise meaningful choices.” Those choices should include services offered by edge providers that have chosen to enter arrangements for differential treatment in order to offer more desirable services to their customers. Such options will benefit consumers, even as they reduce rival edge providers’ economic welfare by increasing the competitive pressure they face.
Of course, in the past few months, the pressure on the FCC to actually use Title II has increased, and the other big broadband players have made it quite clear that they're furious with Verizon for fighting back against the last set of totally meaningless rules, since the backlash may lead to much stricter rules under Title II.

It now appears that Verizon is belatedly making a big push to attack the idea of Title II and say, "Hey, those original plans from Wheeler to use 706 sound great." That seems to be the clear message from Verizon's new letter to Senator Pat Leahy and corresponding blog post entitled "Title II Is Not The Answer".

In the letter, Verizon refers to the Title II option as "unprecedented utility-style regulation" and praises Section 706 as being effective.

Unprecedented, huh? Really?

If that's the case, why did Verizon beg regulators to have its FiOS internet broadband service classified under Title II for the sake of government subsidies? Here's Verizon using Title II in New Jersey:
And again in Washington DC:
So, um, you know, it actually seems fairly well precedented... by Verizon, no less. Verizon is playing a ridiculous shell game here, in which it wants to be classified as Title II in order to get subsidized access to install its network, but then doesn't want to be held to the rules that Title II puts on those networks. And so it claims, laughably, that such rules are "unprecedented," even as Verizon begs to be regulated under them when it benefits itself.

The letter also insists that "paid prioritization" is a joke and nothing more than "demagoguery since no major ISP has expressed an interest in offering 'paid prioritization' and all agree that the FCC has a valid legal path to prohibit it." Oh really? Can we just go right back up to the quotes we pasted above from Verizon's own filing with the FCC in July, in which it made clear that it wanted to engage in offering "differentiated services" to consumers? Does it think no one read that thing? Now it says no ISP is interested in offering any such service?

Even worse, later in the letter, Verizon actively plays up the idea of a different form of paid prioritization: the cynical use of "zero-rating" apps or things like T-Mobile's "Music Freedom" service. Verizon and other anti-net neutrality advocates point to these programs as "consumer friendly" proposals that would be barred under real net neutrality rules. Here's Verizon's letter:
Inflexible regulation also threatens to take choices away from American consumers. For example, some net neutrality advocates have attacked new business models, such as sponsored data or “zero-rating,” that would save money for consumers. Under these nascent arrangements, content providers could voluntarily agree to pick up the tab for usage-charges when consumers go to their sites. Or in other instances, such as T-Mobile’s Music Freedom plans, in order to differentiate its service a broadband provider could decide not to charge usage for certain types of traffic. While most consumers would no doubt welcome the opportunity not to pay for their usage – and some consumer groups have recognized the potential for such practices to help address affordability and encourage adoption – many of the loudest supporters of new regulation have advocated the regressive step of banning these pro-consumer practices.
It's a total joke to refer to these as "pro-consumer practices." As we explained after T-Mobile announced the Music Freedom program, this is like saying that you're a "hero" for setting a house on fire to save the baby inside. The only reason these programs are good for consumers is because they knock down the artificial walls set up by the telcos in the first place. It's not pro-consumer to say, "Hey, we're going to charge you massive data rates for everything... Oh, except for these few services that we'll be nice and let you access without those fees (probably because those services paid us directly already)."

Zero-rating programs sound good if you ignore the very reason why they're necessary in the first place: because of the artificially high tariffs that the telcos put there in the first place. It's not "pro-consumer" to offer them a tiny oasis from the ridiculous billing practices you yourself set up.

But that's the kind of contradictory bullshit that we've come to expect from Verizon these days. Title II is unprecedented (except all the times we beg to use it to get taxpayer-funded benefits for ourselves). No one wants paid prioritization (except that we've said we'd like to do paid prioritization). Zero-rating is pro-consumer (in that it saves the consumer from the rest of our awful policies). Basically, it seems like Verizon is so used to hiding the nasty details down in the fine print, that it now does it as standard operating procedures in everything it says and does.
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Filed Under: fcc, net neutrality, open internet, paid prioritization, patrick leahy, section 706, title ii
Companies: verizon


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  1. identicon
    PRMan, 30 Oct 2014 @ 12:54pm

    Hey, they begged for it...

    Hey, it's clear from their documents that they want it, I say that we give it to them.

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