NCTA: We'll Assist FCC In Understanding Peering

Says it Agrees with Wheeler that that is Separate Issue from Net Neutrality Rules

FCC Chairman Tom wheeler was getting some support from the Hill and elsewhere, including the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, for his announcement Friday (June 13) of a deep dive into paid peering arrangements--he said the FCC already had the agreements from the Netflix/Comcast and Netflix/Verizon deals that have drawn complaints, including from Netflix.

“We agree with Chairman Wheeler that Internet interconnection and peering issues are not net neutrality issues," said NCTA, focusing on Wheeler's statement that peering was a "cousin" to net neutrality. "We look forward to assisting the Commission in better understanding this vibrant, competitive marketplace.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee said she welcomed the news, saying interconnection agreements are "a key aspect of connectivity that allows the Internet to serve as the platform for innovation and investment we know today."

But she signaled the inquiry was only the beginning of the process.

"In the midst of the net neutrality debate," she added, "It is reassuring that the Commission recognizes that net neutrality is only one aspect of the Internet ecosystem, and that in order to ensure openness and competition, the connection between broadband and content providers is equally important. This examination is a crucial first step to educate the Commission and the public about complex delivery systems for Internet traffic and ensure transparency and fairness endure even as technologies evolve and expand.”

Wheeler did not say what the end game was for the inquiry, beyond answering the question of the impact of paid peering on the consumer and Internet openness. But he did say the data collection--Wheeler is a big fan of collecting data--would extend to a range of content providers--like Google--and ISPs.

"The FCC’s action to look at the peering relationships between major Internet market participants is welcome and long overdue," said Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America, suggesting that it had not been an option. "As CFA pointed out in comments in both the IP transition and the Open Internet dockets, interconnection on reasonable and nondiscriminatory rates, terms and conditions is one of the core public service principles of U.S. communications policy, a principle that grows more important as digital communications networks become dominant. 

"The FCC would be derelict in its duties if it did not examine the facts underlying disputed high speed data interconnection that affects tens of millions of broadband users," he said. "Whether or not the FCC takes any specific action in any specific dispute, gathering this data will inform its decision making in its broader efforts to write an effective Open Internet order that prevents the abuse of market power and preserves the dynamic openness of the Internet."