An Open Letter to the FCC on the Open Internet

Today (September 15th) is the final day for public comment on the FCC’s proceeding regarding its proceeding on how to classify and regulate ISPs. You can speak up by commenting publicly on proceeding 14-28 via the FCC’s website.  You can learn more about the importance of Net Neutrality at Battle for the Net. To be clear, “Open Internet” is the term used by ISP lobbyists trying to limit the ability of the FCC to regulate them.  Here’s my view:

Chairman Wheeler,

I have worked for internet companies for the last 10 years, including both social networks and telecoms companies. I have seen how various parties on both sides of net neutrality behave. I fully believe that, however imperfect, regulators like the FCC must act to limit the ability of ISPs to exploit their oligopolies in connectivity to compete in adjacent markets.

Internet connectivity should be treated as a public utility, with ISPs classified as common carriers. In many markets, broadband is a duopoly at best. Consumers have very limited choice. If ISPs are allowed to use access to their captive pool of end users as an asset for strategic aims in adjacent markets, it will further restrict choice and competition in a number of nascent markets for digital services.

If it were technically possible – should General Electric be permitted to buy an electricity utility and slow or degrade the electricity flowing to Whirlpool dishwashers in consumers’ homes in favor of that flowing to its GE Profile brand? In the internet market,
analogous behavior is technically possible. An ISP could act to degrade the quality of a competing video-on-demand service in favor of its own solution. Consumers need some regulatory action to protect them for such abuse.

ISPs should be able to charge content providers fair and reasonable prices for interconnection – but these prices must be set without consideration for the nature of the content providers business and be proportional to the technical costs the ISP incurs for carrying that content.

ISPs should be able to charge consumers based on the amount of data they use, so long as they don’t differentiate rates based on the source of data.

Within this framework, ISPs must not be able to discriminate based on traffic source (or any other factor that is a proxy for traffic source) when managing the quality or speed at which traffic passed through their network.

Thank you for considering my perspective on this matter.


Erik Schultink