U.S. DOJ Wary of Net Neutrality; Prioritization Of Certain Content May Actually be "Procompetitive"

This has some major implications for content companies: Antitrust authorities at the U.S. Justice Department have warned FCC against imposing net neutrality regulations, saying that would deter broadband ISPs from “upgrading and expanding their networks to reach more Americans.” The Department stated that “precluding broadband providers from charging content and application providers directly for faster or more reliable service could shift the entire burden of implementing costly network expansions and improvements onto consumers. If the average consumer is unwilling or unable to pay more for broadband Internet access, the result could be to reduce or delay critical network expansion and improvement.”

Addressing content companies specifically: “The types of conduct that some proponents of regulation seek to prohibit–e.g., the prioritization of certain content and content providers (such as streaming video and other latency-sensitive content), offering of premium services and different levels of quality of service, preferential treatment of certain content, and vertical integration–in many instances actually may be procompetitive. A blanket prohibition on such conduct would likely result in significant marketplace distortion. Even assuming that a potential danger exists, the ambiguity of what conduct needs to be prohibited raises a real possibility that regulation would prohibit some conduct that is beneficial, while failing to stop other conduct that may be harmful.”

The agency said providing different levels of service is common, efficient and could satisfy consumers. As an example, it cited that the U.S. Postal Service charges customers different guarantees and speeds for package delivery, ranging from bulk mail to overnight delivery. The full filing from DOJ is here.

AT&T of course supports this stance: “We continue to urge policymakers to focus on the real issue of the broadband era, which is to promote the benefits of broadband services at affordable rates for all consumers,” AT&T said in a statement.

The agency’s stance comes more than two months after Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras cautioned policy makers to enact Net neutrality regulation, reports AP.

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