Despite A Decade Of Trying To Kill It, Verizon Insists It Loves Net Neutrality

from the with-friends-like-these dept

You'd be hard pressed to find a company that's been more involved in trying to kill net neutrality than Verizon. The company successfully sued to overturn the FCC's original, flimsy 2010 neutrality rules, which most ISPs actually liked because they contained enough loopholes to drive several vehicle convoys through. Responding to Verizon's legal assault, the FCC responded last year by taking things further, passing new, (supposedly) more legally sound neutrality rules and reclassifying ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. Verizon sued again, though this time as part of a multi-pronged coalition of ISP lobbying groups claiming the rules violated their free speech rights.

We're still waiting on a court ruling in this latest case, which could keep the rules intact, dismantle part of the rules, or obliterate them entirely. Given Verizon's decade-long quest for the latter option, it's a bit amusing to see the company pen a new blog post this week in which it tries to profess its undying devotion to an open Internet:
"Verizon is committed to an open Internet. It’s what’s right for consumers and is vital to our business. Why? We have invested billions in businesses that depend on the ability to reach customers over the networks and platforms of others. We invested in digital ad technology through our $4.4 billion purchase of AOL and own content through properties like the Huffington Post, MapQuest, and TechCrunch. We have an expanding presence in the digital media and entertainment space; Verizon Digital Media Services helps content companies deliver their services in digital form to any screen or device, anywhere in the world.

These investments would be at risk without an open Internet. Now more than ever, we see protecting an open Internet as a business imperative that is inextricably tied to our future success."
So, Verizon's argument goes, the company couldn't possibly hate net neutrality because it shelled out $4.4 billion for AOL last year. Ignoring its readership would need to be a bit of an imbecile to believe such a claim, Verizon proceeds to insist that it supports rules that outlaw blocking, throttling, paid prioritization, and even some kind of "general conduct standard" to "prevent unreasonable conduct by broadband providers" where there is "actual harm to consumers or to competition." The grand irony of course is that this is exactly what the FCC's original rules provided. The same rules Verizon lawyers sued to demolish.

It should be noted that most ISPs support a "no blocking rule," since no ISP in its right mind would try this for risk of PR seppuku. ISPs have also been willing to support rules prohibiting "paid prioritization" and "throttling," so long as the specific language comes with a universe of loopholes. You'll note that Verizon fails to mention the two areas where the net neutrality debate currently resides: interconnection and zero rating. And indeed, Verizon just got done giving the FCC a giant middle finger on the latter front by exempting its own streaming video services from the company's usage caps.

So yes, Verizon loves net neutrality rules, just as long as they don't cover any hot-button issues that actually matter, and are written with loopholes allowing ISPs to wiggle out of the remotest idea of accountability.

So why is Verizon pretending to love net neutrality again now? Should the courts strike down some or part of the rules -- or we elect a President that tries to dismantle them -- it's very likely we'll be having the entire net neutrality argument all over again in very short order. As such, Verizon lobbyists apparently think they can get out ahead of the next round of conversation and have begun the drum beat for new, Congressionally-crafted net neutrality rules the company actually likes:
"In the past we have criticized the FCC for applying outdated rules to the fast-moving Internet ecosystem. We still think that’s true, but let’s be fair: Congress hasn’t updated the FCC’s toolbox for over 20 years, so the FCC is working with the only tools it has, however inadequate. Congress can give the FCC the tools it needs to do this properly and on a legally sustainable basis. It should do so.

Fortunately, there is a real chance that Congress will deal with these issues soon. There is strong bipartisan interest in these issues and strong leadership in the relevant committees. We applaud these bipartisan efforts and encourage Congress to move forward so that we finally have clear and enforceable open Internet rules once and for all."
ISPs have long insisted they'd rather have Congress draft net neutrality rules because they know that A Congress is so politically dysfunctional that this will never happen, or B if it does happen, Congress is so flush with telecom campaign contributions the final rule language will be all-but useless. Again though, if all Verizon wanted was to put the debate to bed and get some half-assed rules passed, it could have just left the original 2010 rules in place. Instead Verizon got greedy and wanted to strike a killing blow to FCC authority, putting the entire industry in the uncertain neutrality quagmire we're currently enjoying today.

The reality is that if Verizon really wants to put the net neutrality debate to bed, it should do consumers and other ISPs a favor and just stop trying to help.
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Filed Under: net neutrality, open internet
Companies: verizon

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Mar 2016 @ 9:34am

    Verizon loves and supports net neutrality about as much as Comcast loves and cares about customer satisfaction.

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