Google has asked the FCC to refrain from regulating the informal interconnection agreements that Google and other providers have developed with ISPs like Comcast and Verizon.
If FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to reclassify broadband providers under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act becomes law as predicted, the regulator would have the right to regulate the behavior of ISPs like Comcast. Comcast and others have signed controversial deals with streaming media companies like Netflix to give these services better throughput at the point where the open Internet reaches their networks.
Under Wheeler’s Title II proposal, broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for payment, i.e., there will be no “fast lanes.” Carriers and ISPs will also be barred from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.
In a filing with the FCC, Google wrote that “regardless of what the Commission decides with respect to the service Internet access providers offer their end-user customers—the Commission should not attempt to classify a “service that broadband providers make available to ‘edge providers.'”
Google has signed peering arrangements with various service providers so they can deliver content to their end users. However, the ISP is the one that controls what speed and other user terms and how “user-selected traffic is carried to and from the ISP’s points of interconnection.”
An end-user and an edge provider like Google have a number of independent relationships with their own access providers, including various third-party backbone networks between them.
“Google has entered into peering arrangements with some of the largest U.S. broadband providers insofar as we are unable to use transit to reach users on those networks with reasonable quality,” Google wrote. “These arrangements are individually negotiated, however, so they could not support classification of a common carriage service provided to Google or any other edge provider. All these arrangements, moreover, are for interconnection.”
Another key concern Google cites is that there has never been standardized terms for each interconnection agreement between ISPs and edge providers and that investigating ISPs’ daily practices could be very time consuming.
Google wrote that “terms for the hypothesized service cannot be found in standard agreements, for (quite unlike ISPs’ end-user access services) written agreements rarely exist, adding that “process would be so time-consuming and burdensome that no complainant could expect timely relief.”
By reclassifying Internet access under Title II, the FCC would already have the authority to ensure that an ISP’s interconnection practices are abiding by its rules without having to classify an ISP’s delivery of edge providers’ content, applications and services as a service distinct from end user Internet access.
What’s more, if the FCC finds that the ISP somehow intentionally is blocking traffic via congesting ports and has inhibited an end-user to get the full benefit of a service like Netflix’s online video service, the FCC could take action to make sure the problem is resolved.
“Should the Commission classify end-user broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service subject to Title II, that classification alone would enable the Commission to ensure that ISPs’ interconnection practices are just and reasonable,” wrote Google. “As noted, for instance, Section 201(b) requires just and reasonable practices ‘for and in connection with such communication service.’ If an ISP’s intentional port congestion or other interconnection practices denied end-user customers the full benefit of the two-way service they have purchased, then the Commission could take enforcement action.”