FCC Review of ISP Slow-Downs Only a First Step

Contact Info: 

Timothy Karr, 201-533-8838

WASHINGTON — On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission announced an enhanced review of the new access fees that Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon have recently demanded from sites and services such as Netflix.

Chairman Tom Wheeler announced at today's monthly open meeting that the agency would gather information from ISPs about all such access-fee arrangements, but said the Commission would provide no further guidance or written notice of this inquiry today.

Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement:

"Demanding more transparency from Internet service providers is a step in the right direction. But it's not enough. The FCC also needs to protect Internet users from abuse and arm them with any information it finds in this investigation.

"By slowing down content from some of their video competitors, phone and cable companies have duped untold numbers of consumers into purchasing faster and pricier tiers of service. But selling users more expensive services won't fix a problem that the ISPs create elsewhere in the network.

"When the FCC required reporting from AT&T after the company blocked Skype in 2009 and Google Voice in 2012, the disclosures revealed that AT&T was indeed misleading its customers. Today, countless Internet users are harmed by these ISPs’ ransom demands when these companies block innovation and blame others for the problem.

"These new ISP access fees may target Netflix, but the impact is far broader. They harm delivery of other content that broadband customers have already paid their ISPs for — including cloud-computing services, online education courses and interactive health care. This is not a peering dispute; it’s an abuse of market power.

"If the FCC is serious about using transparency to empower consumers, it can't keep the information it unearths to itself. And if the agency is serious about protecting the public, it also needs to stop discriminatory abuses once they’re disclosed. The only way the FCC can do that is by reclassifying Internet service providers as common carriers."

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