The world's largest internet companies lambasted the FCC in a formal filing today, telling America's telecom regulator to kill its plans to ditch net neutrality rules.
In a lengthy 38‑page response [PDF], accompanied by a 45‑page economic analysis [PDF], the Internet Association – which represents Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Twitter and 35 others – argues that the current effort underway to get rid of the Open Internet Order would "create significant uncertainty" and "harm consumers and innovators alike."
"Undoing the Commission's 2015 Order, and even continuing to discuss reopening the settled open internet debate, will create significant uncertainty in the market and upset the careful balance that has led to the current virtuous circle of innovation in the broadband ecosystem," says the filing.
The response and paper comes the week after the same companies held a "day of protest" against the FCC's plans (formally a "notice of proposed rulemaking" or NPRM), warning consumers that if the current rules are changed, they risk facing a slower and more expensive internet. Users were encouraged to contact the FCC to register their concern, and over 1.5 million apparently did.
The Internet Association's response, however, takes a deeper look at the issue and goes to some lengths to highlight the value of the current rules, while also taking critical aim at the arguments made for upending them.
The section headings alone tell the story:
The NPRM fails to account for the virtuous circle of broadband innovation under which the cloud economy has flourished
In that, the association criticizes the ISP-only focus of the FCC's proposal, which focuses "solely on investments made by ISPs" and ignores "investments being made by edge providers in the cloud that are reshaping the US economy."
It also questions the claims at the heart of the NPRM: that ISPs are investing less because of the rules. Not true, says the filing. "There is no evidence that ISP investment has been harmed following the 2015 Open Internet Order and, in fact, plenty of evidence that ISPs have increased their investments."
The 2015 Open Internet rules are working; there is no need to revisit them and introduce uncertainty into the internet ecosystem
This section digs into the claims that broadband investment has been hurt by the net neutrality rules and argues that they are "unsupported by evidence."
It then references its accompanying economic study – done by the Internet Association's chief economist – which tears into the various papers and blog posts that have been used by the FCC to explain its decision to move forward.
"First, much of the research dates back between several years to over one decade," warns the paper, noting that many of them were written before the new rules were even in place. Second – and more pressing – is "the void of empirical evidence on NN [net neutrality] impacts."
The paper argues that, counter to what ISPs are saying, broadband investment is actually up over time and there is "no decline as a result of the Commission's 2015 Order." The claims otherwise "don't mesh with reality."