Mozilla Has a Plan to Save Net Neutrality

The Firefox-maker pitches a new idea to prevent Internet “fast lanes.”

National Journal
Brendan Sasso
May 5, 2014, 11:09 a.m.

Moz­illa is ur­ging the Fed­er­al Com­mu­nic­a­tions Com­mis­sion to en­act new rules to bar In­ter­net ser­vice pro­viders from char­ging web­sites for faster ser­vice.

In a fil­ing with the FCC on Monday, the non­profit found­a­tion that makes the Fire­fox Web browser out­lined a new leg­al path to en­act tough net­work-neut­ral­ity reg­u­la­tions.

Chris Ri­ley, a seni­or policy en­gin­eer for Moz­illa, said the group’s pro­pos­al is “groun­ded in a mod­ern un­der­stand­ing of tech­no­logy and mar­kets” and would “help en­sure that the In­ter­net con­tin­ues to be an in­nov­at­ive and open plat­form.”

The fil­ing in­tro­duces a new angle to the de­bate over reg­u­la­tion of In­ter­net ac­cess, but it’s un­clear how in­ter­ested the FCC will be in Moz­illa’s pro­pos­al.

In Janu­ary, the D.C. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals struck down the FCC’s old neut­ral­ity rules. FCC Chair­man Tom Wheel­er wants to re­work the rules in a way that can sur­vive fu­ture court chal­lenges.

His pro­pos­al would bar In­ter­net pro­viders from block­ing any web­sites but (un­like the old rules) would al­low them to charge for spe­cial “fast lanes” in at least some cases. The FCC is set to vote on wheth­er to move ahead with Wheel­er’s pro­pos­al on May 15.

Lib­er­als are out­raged that the FCC would al­low In­ter­net fast lanes, say­ing it would al­low ISPs to pick win­ners and losers and would tilt the In­ter­net in fa­vor of the largest cor­por­a­tions.

Con­sumer ad­vocacy groups are ur­ging the FCC to re­clas­si­fy broad­band In­ter­net ser­vice as a Title II “tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions ser­vice” — a move that would dra­mat­ic­ally ex­pand the FCC’s leg­al au­thor­ity and al­low it to re­in­state strong rules that ban fast lanes. But re­clas­si­fy­ing the In­ter­net un­der Title II of the Com­mu­nic­a­tions Act would prompt a massive back­lash from Re­pub­lic­ans and busi­ness groups, who warn the FCC would be grant­ing it­self new un­checked reg­u­lat­ory powers and would risk stifling the growth of broad­band net­works.

In its fil­ing Monday, Moz­illa pro­posed a third op­tion. The FCC should use the Title II op­tion — but only for the re­la­tion­ship between web­sites and ISPs, not the re­la­tion­ship between con­sumers and ISPs, the group said.

The pro­pos­al would al­low the FCC to bar ISPs from char­ging web­sites for fast lanes while still us­ing the cur­rent light reg­u­lat­ory re­gime for oth­er In­ter­net is­sues that af­fect con­sumers, the group said.

Moz­illa ar­gued that its pro­pos­al is not “re­clas­si­fic­a­tion” be­cause the FCC has nev­er ex­pli­citly defined the re­la­tion­ship between ISPs and Web com­pan­ies.

“With our pro­pos­al, the FCC would be able to shift its at­ten­tion away from au­thor­ity ques­tions once and for all, and fo­cus in­stead on ad­opt­ing clear rules pro­hib­it­ing block­ing and dis­crim­in­a­tion on­line,” Ri­ley wrote in a Moz­illa blog post.

Har­old Feld, a seni­or vice pres­id­ent for the con­sumer group Pub­lic Know­ledge, ap­plauded the pro­pos­al, which he said is a “nov­el idea” for sav­ing net neut­ral­ity.

He said the fil­ing is sig­ni­fic­ant not only be­cause of the sub­stance of the pro­pos­al but also be­cause of who is mak­ing it. The cable in­dustry has been warn­ing against tough reg­u­la­tion, but Moz­illa’s fil­ing shows that power­ful busi­ness in­terests are on the side of net neut­ral­ity, Feld said.

“This cre­ates a new con­stitu­ency that says Title II is not a ‘nuc­le­ar op­tion.’ Title II is a tech­nic­al thing that you’ve got to do,” Feld said.

But Moz­illa’s pro­pos­al may not be much more polit­ic­ally vi­able than the full-scale Title II op­tion.

Ber­in Szoka, pres­id­ent of the liber­tari­an group Tech­Free­dom, said the “prac­tic­al ef­fect of their pro­pos­al would be al­most ex­actly the same as re­clas­si­fic­a­tion of broad­band gen­er­ally.” He said that the idea looks easy on pa­per but that in prac­tice it would be “messy, slow, and un­pre­dict­able.”

“Open­ing the door to Title II at all would still cre­ate sig­ni­fic­ant reg­u­lat­ory un­cer­tainty that would harm broad­band in­vest­ment, and thus make con­sumers worse off,” Szoka claimed.

What We're Following See More »
DONATING TO FOOD BANKS
Government Buying $20 Million in Cheese
10 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Thanks to competition from Europe, America's cheese stockpiles are at a 30-year high. Enter the U.S. government, which announced it's buying 11 million pounds of the stuff (about $20 million). The cheese will be donated to food banks.

Source:
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
QUESTIONS OVER IMMIGRATION POLICY
Trump Cancels Rallies
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Source:
‘STRATEGY AND MESSAGING’
Sean Hannity Is Also Advising Trump
2 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”

Source:
THE SHAKE-UP CONTINUES
RNC’s Spicer to Work from Trump HQ
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump's campaign and the Republican party will coordinate more closely going forward, with the GOP's top communicator and chief strategist Sean Spicer increasingly working out of Trump campaign headquarters, the campaign confirmed Sunday."

Source:
×