There are a few interesting angles to the likely new network neutrality framework the Federal Communications Commission now is expected to propose. The plan now under consideration would separate broadband into two distinct services, with different rules. The Internet access business, where ISPs sell connections to the Internet, would be less regulated. But the “back end” relationships between access ISPs and content providers would be regulated as a common carrier utility service.
Though the full details are not yet available, the new rules would make interconnection of Internet domains an explicit acknowledgement that retail ISPS now act as “content delivery networks” for application and content providers.
The irony is that content and app providers have vocally opposed the notion that ISPs act in that manner, in the sense of accelerating content delivery, a service Akamai and other content delivery networks routinely provide.
The new rules would be based on the principle that the key feature of the modern Internet is that it has become a content distribution vehicle.
“We ask the FCC to recognize that technological evolution has led to two distinct relationships in the last mile of the network: the current one, between an ISP and an end user, which is unchanged, plus a “remote delivery” service offered by an ISP to an edge provider...connecting the provider to all of the ISP’s end users,” argued Chris Riley, Mozilla senior policy engineer.
“Edge providers” are app providers, essentially, though the term can include any consumer hosting a server or a backbone network as well.
The idea of bifurcated regulation, essentially categorizing end user retail Internet access as a more lightly regulated information service, while “backend” interconnections between access ISPs and content or app networks would be considered “common carrier” or regulated services, initially was proposed by Mozilla.
Oddly enough, some might note that Title II network interconnection rules imply reciprocal compensation. Those rules apply when one connecting network delivers much more traffic than it takes, and are based on the notion that a network delivering traffic to end users has costs imposed on it by the delivering network.
Content networks obviously do not expect to pay reciprocal compensation, any more than they would expect to pay for content delivery services possibly provided by retail “eyeball” networks.
But exempting content networks from reciprocal compensation rules would raise issues. So, as always, the rules are going to be challenged in courts.