Protecting Net Neutrality and the Open Internet

Chris Riley

24

(Updated May 6 with additional notes; see below.)

In January, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order that prevented Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from blocking and discriminating against edge providers, including any website operator, application developer or cloud service provider. We called the court’s ruling “alarming for all Internet users.” As Mozilla Chairwoman Mitchell Baker and then-CEO John Lilly put it in 2009: “Nondiscriminatory access to content is what created the miracle of the Internet. It must be preserved.”

Today, Mozilla formally filed a request with the FCC to take a new path forward. We are asking the FCC to modernize its understanding of Internet access services, and apply its statutory authority for Internet data delivery services in a consistent and complete way. 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.

The FCC is currently planning to propose new rules that would allow ISPs to charge edge providers for prioritized access over others. Open Internet advocates and media have been very critical of the agency’s strategy. We, too, are concerned that the FCC’s approach would not adequately safeguard the open Internet. Innovation and competition require nondiscriminatory access for all edge providers to end user subscribers, without blocking, throttling, or prioritizing one option relative to others.

Even if the FCC’s current plan is adopted and survives court review, and even if Chairman Wheeler stands ready to use the FCC’s full authority to establish stronger protections later, should they become needed, Internet users and developers cannot know whether future FCC Chairs will maintain vigilance. In contrast, clear authority and meaningful, enforceable rules would provide lasting certainty.

One of the biggest obstacles to overcome is authority, and how to get past limitations put into law several years ago. Our petition tackles this challenge head-on:

  • Last-mile, terminating access Internet routing is currently understood to include one type of commercial relationship: between an ISP (Comcast, in the sample image) and an end user (Carol, in the image), connecting the end user to all Internet sites. We are challenging that understanding and proposing a modernization.
  • We ask the FCC to recognize that technological evolution has led to two distinct relationships in the last mile of the network: the current one, between an ISP and an end user, which is unchanged, plus a “remote delivery” service offered by an ISP to an edge provider (Dropbox, in the image), connecting the provider to all of the ISP’s end users.
  • In the key to our argument, we then ask the FCC to designate remote delivery services as telecommunications services under Title II of the Communications Act.
Mozilla proposes the FCC recognize two services within Internet access: local delivery connecting each end user to all edge providers, and remote delivery connecting each edge provider to all end users.

Mozilla proposes the FCC recognize two services within Internet access: local delivery connecting each end user to all edge providers, and remote delivery connecting each edge provider to all end users.

Categorizing remote delivery services as telecommunications services is consistent with the guidelines set by both Congress and the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, and would give the FCC ample ability to adopt and enforce meaningful net neutrality. With clear authority and effective rules, ISPs would be prevented from blocking or discriminating against any edge provider, whether on a wireline or wireless network.

The path we propose is grounded in a modern understanding of technology and markets, and drawn from the perspective of Silicon Valley, where so many of the Internet’s inventions have originated. Mozilla’s proposal would help ensure that the Internet continues to be an innovative and open platform, central to our individual growth and our collective future.

We plan to continue working with policymakers and thought leaders on Internet policy to develop and advance these ideas over the next few weeks. We expect there will be ample opportunity for public comment on our idea, among others, and we encourage everyone to join in the conversation. Stay tuned to this blog, and to the Wiki page we’ve put up on this issue, to learn more and to find ways to get involved.

May 6 Update: Based on the input we’ve received about this proposal since announcing it, we felt it would be useful to clarify a few things that seem to cause some sporadic confusion:

  • Our petition asks the FCC to use Title II, but it isn’t reclassification, because it wouldn’t reverse existing precedents.
  • We are not asking the FCC to apply Title II to peering and interconnection, only last mile remote delivery services.
  • Our petition would not impose obligations on technology companies, but instead would safeguard them by clearly delineating services.

24 responses

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  1. Rebeldawg wrote on :

    I think this is the best solution to the net neutrality issue as it will prevent greedy ISPs from discriminating against any traffic on the internet and also prevent them from charging streaming services such as netflix “preferred” access to their customers just so the ISP can make even more money.

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  2. Craig Cruden wrote on :

    I think the best solution would be to recognize the limitations to a fully dynamic free-market competitive internet delivery system within the local municipality. Basically the cost of infrastructure, and the density required of the customers limits the ability to have a fully competitive marketplace within the local municipality since any new entry could easily be forced out because if the inabiility to get a dense enough customer base. Therefore the most you’re going to end up having is something like a duopoly, which in many cases does not provide competition since it is in neither companies interest to compete that way and they become comfortable just splitting up the territory and having a fat profit margin. On the other hand where it is feasible for new entrants to compete, that part of the network does not require the same oversight. Decades ago they had the same situation in the phone service provider area, and the solution chosen was to break up the monopoly (or duopoly) but breaking up local and long distance relationships into two different services. This same solution can be applied to the internet service provider relationship. The local ISP (which often uses public land to string wires to houses) should be required to connect up any local service lines at full speed unmetered speed (with limited network management to relieve congestion where technically necessary) with a local public exchange (or multiple for larger municipalities). Actual services providers such as TV, phone, or internet would be able to plug into the public exchanges. The local provider would be able to also offer these same services using the same public exchanges. The local network usage would however not be able to discriminate between that companies services and other companies services. This type of marketplace would likely have the same duopoly or monopoly of local lines, while allowing for a much more dynamic marketplace for services (likely 10+ service providers). A consumer could then choose any of those service providers for internet service outside of the municipality, and any video or phone suppliers. Long haul service providers such as Cogent, IX Reach, Level 3 could connect up their services to the public exchanges as well. This type of solution is already used with public exchanges like AMS-IX for business solutions, so it is not a new type of solution or a business unfriendly solution….

    Reply

    1. Anonymous wrote on :

      Read this: http://www.teletruth.org/docs/ShortSCANDALSummary.pdf

      Sure, infrastructure is expensive. BUT YOU’VE ALREADY PAID FOR IT. Read the page I posted above for more information.

      The ISPs need to deliver what they have been paid for (and paid handsomely, I might add). And yes, running fiber to every house is expensive, that’s why they planned to run large fiber cables through neighborhoods and then connect individual houses to it with both fiber and copper wiring to lower the cost. Essentially the same principle as your municipality and local ISP plan.

      I don’t think adding more businesses to the mix is a viable solution, as ISPs and other telecomm companies have already shown time and time again that they don’t care about their customers; they care about their stock price and bottom line.

      Here’s that link again: http://www.teletruth.org/docs/ShortSCANDALSummary.pdf

      And feel free to do your own independent research on the matter too.

      Reply

      1. Craig Cruden wrote on :

        It is not “adding” more companies into the mix it is understanding that there are some infrastructure things that by their very nature does not facilitate a functioning market economy where businesses compete — similar to the fact that you cannot have more than 1 or 2 roads to your house. I also don’t think government run businesses are a solution to every solution. You basically accept reality and regulate the local connection because there is no way of creating a functioning market — which is providing a pipe to your house be it electrical, communications, gas lines etc. You create a junction that all companies can use that infrastructure in a nondiscriminatory manner to provide services at the point where the market can and will function. Basically the local and long haul are operated as separate entities even if a company has it’s hands on both sides. You could go a step further and have the local lines held in a trust and the local lines would be maintained by private companies which are authorized to maintain it, but I don’t think it is doable in the US at this time, so a regulated local monopoly/duopoly is a reasonable compromise. At that junction (AMS-IX like) you would have a very competitive market with easily more than 10 competitors being able to offer services – and would not need as much regulation. You could have bandwidth by demand (more costly) bandwidth guaranteed (pre-commitment), different companies offering different bundled packages – or even individual video services (tv stations) allowing individual subscriptions – the possibilities are actually wide ranging.

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  3. Backwards wrote on :

    I think I’m missing something. If you’re regulating peering relationships, you are regulating the Internet.

    I’ve forgotten who is supposed to win by this, but I’m pretty sure that no one would, perhaps Google aside… they’re pretty deep into government.

    If Netflix pays some nominal fee to use an ISP CDN or locate a cache in its network, how does that hurt anyone? They were paying 3rd party CDNs before, this is cheaper, and they’re the main user, by volume, of the Internet, so it’s not like it’s ridiculous for them to help scale it. I realize Google wants free co-location services just because they’re Google. Not that I’m saying you’re Google’s sock puppet just because they pay your bills, but aside from them, whose agenda does “let’s regulate peering” serve? It’s totally cheaper to lease bandwidth than it is to play the government game, and if you’re small, you’re going through some higher level ISP anyway.

    Reply

    1. Chris Riley wrote on :

      I think you’re missing some of the details here. The petition very clearly says that our proposal would apply to last-mile network practices only, and explicitly says that it wouldn’t address interconnection and peering arrangements.

      Reply

      1. Backwards wrote on :

        I’m missing a lot. The entire submission reads like nonsense, but if I follow its convolutions I gather you are asking for increased regulation of the TRANSMISSIONS to the user, but not the CONNECTION to the user (all caps screaming mine). I didn’t understand what the implications of this would be.

        The back-story is that consumer Internet services were classified as information services rather than as telecommunications services because the Internet let you do stuff that wasn’t making a phone call (eg, use an encyclopedia, find an address, play a game). Your argument is that, while you don’t want Internet connections to be considered title whatever telecommunications services, you want each individual transmission from each website or P2P user or NTP server to be considered its own telecommunication service (“remote delivery service”) that the ISP is responsible for on the last mile. From the ISP’s perspective, each packet might be a unique service, as IP doesn’t have a notion of a connection and only some networking gear looks beyond the IP header to other protocols (deeper packet inspection typically costs money and introduces latency). Would an ISP be forced into deploying DPI gear to validate service delivery?

        Putting aside my skepticism over the existence of these virtual delivery services, what protections does this afford to legitimate services? What does it gain? Who has standing?

        What protections does it afford to spam, DoS, exploit scanning, etc? (They’re services to someone.)

        Today, there are many situations in which packets will be dropped by the network. If each packet is a protected service is this okay?

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      2. Mutosheep wrote on :

        Oh stop pretending this pertains to anything BUT censorship and Marxist tyranny. Regardless of you fear mongering lemming herders, the internet is free now and your Sturmabteilung are going to fix it until its broken and we have to perpetually grant Big Brother more power to fix it. Why would you want a government that does what it has done with immigration and defense to have broad control over the internet? Go to China if you want censorship. Net neutrality began as “progressive” post modern fascist censorship and it is no less exactly that today no matter how much you mask it. You people are pissing the American public off by treating them like they are stupid enough to believe your White House/Media Matters talking points.

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  4. Anonymous wrote on :

    How does the “for a fee” part of the definition of “telecommunications service” fit into all of this? Seems like you’re recommending the institutionalization of the “double-dipping” by ISPs that you seem to be opposing.

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  5. Larry Ortega wrote on ::

    Internet providers are “common carriers”. The Internet is providing the same service as did/do US Postal Service and the landlines. Both these services were regulated and as such the Internet because it is being used in this manner should also be regulated the same, as “common carrier”.

    Chris Riley: we have a very successful program we run out in California: One Million New Internet Users, OneMillionNIU.org. I would like to talk with you off-line to see how we might lend our support to the Firefox proposal. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.

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  6. Tara wrote on :

    I think this proposal could work. Be praying that the FCC will listen to yah.

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  7. Chris Johnson wrote on :

    Your diagram for this proposal is completely obtuse and confusing. The explanations aren’t much better. Only after reading the whole article and all of the comments did I even have a vague idea of what you’re getting at — and I used to be in the ISP business. The FCC members and politicians are a whole lot less technically savvy than me or the rest of the audience here. You’re really got to greatly improve the clarity of your proposal and diagram if you hope to get any traction.

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    1. Mutosheep wrote on :

      Just like Obamacare, this censorship crap is written in a “tortured” manner to swindle “stupid Americans”-at least according to top Democrats – http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/nov/12/obamacares-jonathan-gruber-caught-on-second-tape-c/

      It’s textbook obfuscation in the Alinsky method which these Mercedes Marxists all majored in at their American madrasas.

      Reply

  8. payton wrote on ::

    May the government will listen to the advice and do something to prevent the bad things happen

    Reply

  9. John Johnson wrote on ::

    Oh Mozilla, your heart pure as Vanilla. If it wasn’t for you, I’d move to Timbaktu.

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  10. Michael Elling ( wrote on ::

    Mozilla and others should start with terminology that reflects function and role. What is referred to as edge providers really sit at the core of the network and benefit from tremendous scale of competition in the WAN (wide area; long-distance) over the past 30 years. (I know Internet folks would like to think the WAN was created by ARPA, but the commercial foundations were developed in the 1980s and is a good reason had a 10 year head start.) Transit rates in the WAN are $0.0000004 to send a voice minute anywhere in the globe. This number continues to decline 30-40% annually. Video costs are just 2 decimals to the left. All of these app and content cos reside in datacenters of enormous scale in the core of the network; like enormous “switches”.

    The real “edge” access providers are the incumbent mono-duopolies in the MAN (metro, or mid or last mile) whose voice termination and transit costs are $0.001 and declining 5-10% annually. This has been going on for 10 years since Brand-X and (un)divestiture; hence the spread or arbitrage. Where there is competition, like GoogleFiberKC (synchronous gbs for $70), the cost is $0.00001. And that is early days, without the benefit of scale from SMB, enterprise, wireless offload and backhaul. The point being that both absolute and relative costs between WAN and MAN are not very different (maybe 1, at most 2 decimals) when fiber enters the picture and the diversity of demand at the edge also gets scaled.

    Net neutrality, interconnect, peering, etc.. are all related. Comcast is trying to push the WAN/MAN demarc towards the core just like AT&T used interconnect exclusion zones 100 years ago. Same story, different terms. The issue (since 1996, and even earlier) is how to introduce competition in the last mile ensuring MAN costs are driven down and how competitive markets clear marginal consumption efficiently; which they clearly have demonstrated they can. In fact net neutrality as a concept is both a contrived notion and a farce; invented by those who choose to ignore the history of the 1980s-90s. Everyone is “just talking” and not using data and objective analytical frameworks and terminology that can be consistently applied to all types of information, applications, networks and users over the past 170 years.

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  11. Dave Sanford wrote on ::

    Allowing content companies to pay Internet service providers for special access to consumers is not the right market solution. The right market solution is to have consumers pay more for more bandwidth.

    Allowing ISPs to charge content providers for preferential treatment will allow various large parties to game the system – whether it is the ISPs or the content providers gaming the system – this will not translate into market driven consumer choice as well as simply causing consumers to pay more for what they want. I believe that causing large Internet content players and ISPs to decide will allow them to charge consumers more – rather than being directly subject to consumer market forces – which will allow us to vote with our dollars. Some people would choose to pay less and receive less bandwidth and I think that is a good thing.

    Reply

  12. Zane wrote on ::

    Another fight against the greedy ones that are trying to stop freedom and the internet. In some way you could consider this a breach in the freedom of speech act, mostly because some others will have a higher authority than you.

    Reply

  13. Yo Dude wrote on :

    Hey, Mozilla,

    Here, read this: Filing by Tejas Narechania and Tim Wu in 14-28: http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/comment/view?id=6017611807

    Also this: http://ammori.org/2014/05/13/net-neutralitys-legal-binary-an-eitheror-with-no-third-way/

    You said:
    > In the key to our argument, we then ask the FCC to designate remote delivery services as telecommunications services under Title II of the Communications Act.

    My question: How is classifying every single web page as Title II supposed to be *better* than regulating the ISPs as Title II?

    You also said:
    > Our petition would not impose obligations on technology companies, but instead would safeguard them by clearly delineating services.

    I’m having a hard time believing that.

    What are “remote delivery services”, by your definition?

    *Reads the whole filing*

    Ok… So, are you arguing (or trying to argue) the same thing as the Tim Wu guy (who I essentially agree with), but are only focusing on the “response” part? Your blog post makes it sound really confusing, like a site like reddit, or Mozilla, or MyCatBlog would be subject to Title II, which would really piss me off (I’m not a data carrier or an ISP! It’s my website, I can block whoever the hell I want! Get your regulations out of here!).

    So, from your filing, it sounds like you’re not asking to classify “remote delivery services” like Netflix or DumbSite as Title II, but -the ISP’s delivery- of remote services as Title II? Eg, the actual sending of the data from point B (the server) to point A (the ISP’s customer)?

    Damn, you guys write like crap.

    Tell me – why would an ISP have any obligation to deliver data for someone who isn’t paying them to deliver it? They don’t. EverySiteEver is not the ISP’s customer. It is the existence of the ISP’s customer, whether they want data delivered to, or from, or to and from them, who creates this obligation. Are you saying that EverySiteEver should be paying the terminating ISP for the service of delivering data so as to create this obligation? Because that’s what what you’re arguing would seem to imply.

    The other filing (the one I linked) is a lot better. Read that and then post some clarifications as to what it is you’re actually asking for. Because what I’m reading right now? After reading the whole thing, I -think- I get it, and I’m hardly one to shy away from technical jargon, (for example, stuff like this is pretty straightforward: http://blog.level3.com/global-connectivity/observations-internet-middleman/ ), so that’s not the problem.

    Reply

  14. Ryan Rardin wrote on :

    This proposal has one fatal flaw. There is a loophole that allows ISPs to keep throttling traffic to services that compete with their own offerings in the same area. Reclassifying ISPs in general as common carriers is the only way to fix this, with protection for spam filters and Internet security of course.

    Reply

  15. Laura wrote on :

    Can someone explain to me how (or if) this new definition of a Remote Delivery Service would impact the recent agreements between Netflix and Verizon and Netflix and Comcast?

    Reply

  16. Tom Gledhill wrote on :

    Got a reply from Tom Wheeler chairman FFC

    Thank you very much for contacting us about the ongoing Open Internet proceeding. We’re hoping to hear from as many people as possible about this critical issue, and so I’m very glad that we can include your thoughts and opinions.

    I’m a strong supporter of the Open Internet, and I will fight to keep the internet open. Thanks again for sharing your views with me.

    Tom Wheeler
    Chairman
    Federal Communications Commission

    Reply

  17. Lauren Saine wrote on :

    Your analysis is brilliant. Thank you. I am an ICT policy analyst and only recently realized I did not understand how net neutrality works for small online businesses. In going to local tech meetups, I’ve found that even many established companies have never given a thought to the “A” relationship, let alone the “B.” I would only suggest you make future Exec Summaries more like the blog post — super-easy UX. These things reach a wide audience, and small tech entrepreneurs (and everyone) need to understand the mechanics of how the rules might affect them. Thanks again for the awesome work.

    Reply

  18. Joy wrote on :

    I think we, the users, should have freedom of choice of networks. Isn’t the competition here just the same as other places. Let users determine what suits our needs. I believe there is support enough to go around. I, personally receive something good from different channels and appreciate that opportunity

    Reply

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