Net Neutrality: What just happened and why Ericsson’s engagement impacts our business
Since the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) started contemplating its role in the broadband world years ago, Democratic and Republican FCC Chairmen realized that the framework for addressing the Internet should be based on a standard that allowed for maximum creativity, and minimal government involvement. For years, that framework – often referred to as “Title I” – defined the government’s role in regulating the Internet.
That’s not to say that there have not been hiccups. There are instances of ISPs playing games. Remember, Comcast tried to block BitTorrent traffic years ago. A small wireline ISP once blocked Vonage. In both cases, public scrutiny and political pressure – not rules – led to such practices being eliminated.
In 2015, Chairman Wheeler took actions to bring the Internet under a stricter framework – known as “Title II.” What’s that? Think telephones. One big reason Title II exists as law is to make sure that the monopoly telephone provider of the past could not play games. Your calls had to go through, and they did.
The current FCC Chairman Pai has effectively hit the reset button. The Order he released brings the Internet back to the welcoming arms of Title I. Contrary to much rhetoric, the FCC has not “broken the Internet.” Consumers are still protected. ISPs will not block websites. You’ll still be able to watch Netflix on your phone. Your kids will still be using Snapchat.
What does Ericsson think?
Ericsson is very supportive of what just happened. Our products have network management built in. We enable differentiated experiences. Some of the experiences require low latency, or high bandwidth, or content cached close to the end user.
As broadband matures, the issue isn’t so much just “how fast is it?” Now, there can, and will, be levels of access that take into account security, latency, speed, QoS, etc. Those aspects of broadband are what made doing business under rules adopted under Chairman Wheeler so difficult for us and our customers. The rules called into question whether some of the equipment we would like to sell could be deployed. Ericsson’s Government and Industry Relations team has worked for more than a decade on the Net Neutrality issue to make sure we can continue innovating and develop new product offerings. This isn’t just hypothetical. Customers have stated that their concern with a particular product offering was net neutrality rules.
Our biggest advocacy concern in the most recent round at the FCC was 5G. Network slicing, a key component of 5G, is based on delivering different levels of access to different devices and users. The FCC actually quoted Ericsson in its Order stating: “not all IoT connections place equal demands on the network, an inflexible version of net neutrality in this context could harm innovation. The notion that every data bit sent between connected cars should be treated with the same degree of priority as email traffic or that an augmented reality service is barred from obtaining a certain quality of service ignores the difference in requirements of the devices, applications, and users (not all of whom will be human) that will increasingly connect to the wireless Internet.”
So, yes, Ericsson supports the FCC’s recent action and our filings over the past 10 years have been consistent: rules are largely unnecessary in the competitive environment – particularly for wireless broadband – in the United States. Ericsson is, of course, opposed to ISPs blocking traffic or throttling traffic. Nobody is suggesting otherwise. In that aspect, we are aligned with Google and Facebook.
Is Ericsson opposed to Net Neutrality? If you mean is Ericsson opposed to blocking traffic or charging end users to pay ransom to prevent their apps from being throttled? Then absolutely not! Make no mistake, Ericsson supports an open Internet. And, what that means to Ericsson is an Internet that permits and encourages innovation, investment, and customization