Verizon Says Net Neutrality Is a Mistake, Pure and Simple

With the Federal Communications Commission poised to approve expanding and codifying the FCC network neutrality principles Oct. 22, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg blasts the proposal at a Supercomm session.

On the eve of a historic FCC vote to codify and expand the agency's network neutrality principles, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg called the proposal a "mistake, pure and simple-an analog idea in a digital universe."
The Federal Communications Commission is expected Oct. 22 to approve new network neutrality rules that would require carriers to deliver broadband in a nondiscriminatory manner and to disclose their network management policies in a transparent manner. The rules would prohibit broadband carriers such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast from favoring their own content by blocking or slowing content from other content providers.
The carriers have launched a full-fledged media blitz opposing the idea of expanding network neutrality rules since FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced his proposal Sept. 21. The carriers contend that network management realities force them to handle packets differently and that investment in high-speed networks will be crippled if the FCC approves the rules.
"If we can't differentiate between packets, we can't prioritize emergency communications for first responders, telesurgery or heart-monitor readings for digital medicine or video conferencing over spam for telecommuters," Seidenberg told the Supercomm conference in Chicago.
The carriers also insist any network neutrality rules should not be directed only at carriers, but also at content providers such as Google. AT&T has already accused Google Voice of violating existing network neutrality rules because the service blocks some calls, an option carriers regulated under common carrier rules are not allowed.
"Proponents of net neutrality [suggest] that network providers like Verizon and applications providers like Google, Amazon and others occupy fundamentally different parts of the Internet ecosystem-a binary world of 'dumb pipes' on the one hand and 'smart applications' on the other," Seidenberg said. "The truth is, we have never provided dumb pipes. And as more and more commerce takes place on the Internet, customers will rely even more on the quality of service, reliability and product differentiation that network operators provide."
Seidenberg predicted that if the new network neutrality rules ultimately win approval from the FCC, "Our progress toward a connected world will be delayed, if not halted altogether."
While Seidenberg was delivering his broadside against network neutrality, letters of support for the FCC action continued to roll in to the agency, including a letter signed by 30 investors in technology companies who support network neutrality. Public interest and consumer groups have also endorsed network neutrality.
"Permitting network operators to close network platforms or control the applications market by favoring certain kinds of content would endanger innovation and investment in an investment sector which represents many billions of dollars in economic activity," the letter stated. "The Commission is absolutely correct to propose clear rules that require competition. The promise of permanently securing an open Internet will deliver consumers and innovators a perfect free market that drives investment, job creation and consumer welfare. These principles should apply across all Internet access networks, wired or wireless."
Genachowski is expected to win his proposal with the support of Democrats Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn of the five-person FCC. Groups supporting network neutrality have scheduled press calls for Oct. 22 and some have already issued quotes praising the FCC action.