In surprise FCC filing, Sprint endorses net neutrality

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Supporters of net neutrality got a boost from an unlikely source on Friday as telecom giant Sprint stated in a letter to the FCC that it would support so-called “Title II” regulation, which is the only legal tool that the agency can use to ensure internet providers can’t favor some websites over others.

The filing is significant because, until now, the telecom industry has been largely opposed to the use of Title II. Here is the key passage from the letter (my emphasis):

So long as the FCC continues to allow wireless carriers to manage our networks and differentiate our products, Sprint will continue to invest in data networks regardless of whether they are regulated by Title II, Section 706, or some other light touch regulatory regime.

This position stands in stark contrast to what other carriers, including [company]Verizon[/company] and [company]AT&T[/company], have espoused. In particular, the carriers have warned that Title II would provide a major disincentive to invest in upgrades to their internet offerings.

Sprint’s letter, which can be read in full below, comes before an important FCC meeting on February 26 at which the agency is expected to vote on new rules for the internet. The process became necessary after a major court decision one year ago that struck down a prior version of the FCC’s net neutrality rules.

While wireless data providers like [company]Sprint[/company] were not covered by the earlier net neutrality rules, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has hinted strongly that they will be included in whatever new regime the agency imposes.

The letter from Sprint also represents an ongoing shift in momentum in favor of Title II, which appeared to be a long shot at the outset of the process.

Last spring, FCC Chairman floated a plan that would have allowed internet providers to offer special “fast lanes” to preferred websites, but soon reversed course. Meanwhile, companies like Netflix and comedian John Oliver also helped to increase consumers’ support for net neutrality.

Letter – Bye to FCC

5 Comments

mrtonyduarte

I read that the tactics have changed – they are going to use the new congress to take away control from the FCC. So this is probably no more than a public relations ploy while they go after the real prize.

exhibit44

A lot of the web’s most exciting content, is tweets and mîcroblogging, don’t require huge bandwidth. Also, Netflix and others continually create better compression and new ways to sell. Being a bandwidth utility may not in future be as big a thing as people expect.

ricdesan

Hard to not be a bit leery about loopholes or tittle II soft spots that could let service providers work around the core of the regulation.

Either that or those very same service providers plan to manage networks with impunity anyway.

Jeff John Roberts

that’s a fair point ricdesan — you generally have to take what these companies say with a big grain of salt. But my hunch is that Sprint, in this case, is not doing this as cover for something nefarious. Instead, it seems likely that they sense Title II is going to happy anyways, so this is a good opportunity to get in the FCC’s good graces, which might help them with one of their many other files before the agency

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