from the chicken little was wrong dept
Back in June we noted how the very first net neutrality complaint had been filed and that it was notably stupid, but important. Basically, a small San Diego company by the name of Commercial Network Services (CNS) tried to complain that Time Warner Cable was abusing its monopoly power by refusing to give the company free peering. CNS operates a series of webcams in the San Diego area which, when visited, inform users that the reason they can’t access the “ultra-HD” version of the cameras is because their ISP isn’t a peering partner with CNS:
In its informal FCC complaint, CNS tried to claim that Time Warner Cable’s refusal to offer free peering violates the “no paid prioritization” and “no throttling” sections of the new net neutrality rules. Basically, CNS has been trying to claim that net neutrality somehow means it deserves free peering from bigger ISPs, even though that’s never been how things work for smaller companies, and the new net neutrality rules don’t change that. So it was the first net neutrality complaint, but it was also the first example of a company trying to use the rules to weasel out a business advantage, something mega-ISPs tried to claim would be a huge, unmanageable problem.
But the FCC has apparently seen this complaint for what it is and acted accordingly, basically informing the company politely in a letter that it needs to shut up and go away:
“In this instance we regret that you were not satisfied with attempts by FCC staff to facilitate a more satisfactory resolution of the underlying issue. At this point, you might want to contact the company directly to see if you and the company can arrive at a resolution that is more acceptable to you. You will receive no further status on your complaint from FCC staff.”
While the net neutrality rules don’t specifically cover interconnection, they do give the authority for the FCC to resolve complaints on a case-by-case basis. In this case, the FCC clearly found nothing wrong. And that’s a good thing; one narrative of incumbent mega ISPs before the rules were passed was that the FCC would run amok, competitors would abuse the rules, and we’d be wandering a minefield of unintended consequences and protracted legal battles, decimating the telecom landscape as we know it. Yet here, the FCC quickly saw a stupid complaint and shot it down with minimal fuss.
Obviously that’s only one complaint, and we’ll need to watch the FCC closely to see just what trips the agency’s definition of anti-competitive behavior. But so far so good, and none of it has required “heavy handed regulation.” Simply having rules in place has already helped on the interconnection front, with companies like Netflix, Cogent, Level 3 and the mega ISPs (Comcast, AT&T, Verizon) getting along famously simply due to the threat that a regulator might just do its job.
CNS, meanwhile, insists it’s going to proceed and file a formal net neutrality complaint, for whatever that winds up being worth (and it won’t be much).