The National Cable & Telecommunications Association and
AT&T have teamed up to ask the FCC to clarify that its new network
neutrality rules do not apply to peering arrangements and Internet
backbone services, like the peering dispute between Level 3 and Comcast that
Level 3 has complained implicates those new rules.
They point out in a letter to FCC Chairman
Julius Genachowski that the absence of clarification from the FCC has
"emboldened" similar claims and complaints by Global
Crossing, Voxel.net and Public Knowledge, and warn that continued silence
could send a "troubling signal" to financial markets and the international
community about the government's intent "to exercise control over Internet
Like NCTA and AT&T's request, Level 3 and the
others are looking for a sign from the FCC on how it will apply the rules,
since the enforcement regime is on a case-by-case basis. In addition, the FCC
could not take action against any current conduct as a violation of the rules
since they are not in force yet and won't be until mid-summer at the earliest.
They want the commission to "swiftly, clearly and
publicly affirm that arrangements for Internet peering and other Internet
backbone services are not subject to the net neutrality rules, and that the
agency will decline efforts to become involved in these commercial
AT&T and NCTA were among the industry players who
came to the table to hammer out an acceptable form on network
neutrality regs that could supplant FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's
initial intention to reclassify Internet access as a telecommunications service
subject to some common carrier regs. The chairman had the necessary three
Democratic votes to do so, but got pushback from some House Democrats as well
as virtually all the Republicans, as well as ISPs.
AT&T and NCTA didn't think the new regs were
necessary, just preferable to the regulatory alternative.
The companies pointed out in their letter that during that
time of debate and negotiation, "this Commission has steadfastly
maintained...that it has no intention of subjecting Internet peering and other
Internet backbone services to net neutrality rules or any other type of
But having acquiesced--"agreed" is probably too
strong--to the new regs, AT&T and NCTA said that was based on the
commission's repeated assurances that those regs could not be read to
include certain backbone services like peering agreements and that
the regs would "avoid a raft of unintended consequences."
They say the Level 3 complaint, ensuing complaints and
the FCC's silence has put any regulatory certainty at risk. NCTA concedes
the silence may be the FCC's way of saying, and rightly so, that those disputes
should not involve the FCC, they would prefer an unequivocal statement to that
Singing on to the letter were NCTA President
Kyle McSlarrow and AT&T lobbyist James Cicconi, who were among the
stakeholders at the table when the FCC hammered out the compromise regs.
The FCC voted Dec. 21 to expand and codify its network
openness principles on a straight party line vote.
Republican Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker, in an
interview with C-SPAN's Communicators,
said she, too, was concerned that companies were trying to game the new rules
with complaints about backbone services.