Apple entered the net neutrality debate, urging the government to continue prohibiting Internet service providers from discriminating against web sites and online content.
But in a short, four-page filing, the iPhone maker did not take a stand on just how such regulations should be implemented, a key question as the Federal Communications Commission considers rolling back its own 2015 net neutrality rules. Apple’s FCC filing was earlier reported by Recode.
“Broadband providers should not block, throttle, or otherwise discriminate against lawful websites and services,” Cynthia Hogan, Apple’s vice president for public policy, wrote to the agency. “Far from new, this has been a foundational principle of the FCC’s approach to net neutrality for over a decade. Providers of online goods and services need assurance that they will be able to reliably reach their customers without interference from the underlying broadband provider.”
Apple (AAPL) also opposes allowing paid prioritization, the practice banned in the 2015 rules of Internet service providers speeding up customers access to some content in return for payments. Allowing paid prioritization, sometimes called fast lanes for preferred content, would create “an internet with distorted competition where online providers are driven to reach deals with broadband providers or risk being stuck in the slow lane and losing customers due to lower quality service,” she wrote. Apple could be affected since it sells digital movies, music, and TV shows via the iTunes store, runs its own streaming music service called Apple Music, and is reportedly getting ready to offer a lot more of its own video programming online.
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Two years ago, under Obama-appointed FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, the agency adopted rules along those lines. But because courts had twice overturned earlier efforts, the agency based the 2015 rules on a determination that Internet service providers like AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ), and Comcast (CMCSA) were “common carriers” similar to the old phone companies, an area where the law gives the FCC clear regulatory powers.
Trump-appointed chairman Ajit Pai is seeking to overturn the common carrier designation, which he and the ISP industry argue led to excessive regulation and deterred investment in broadband networks. But Pai hasn’t said how he would continue to prevent ISPs from blocking, throttling or otherwise messing with online content. The public comment period on Pai’s preliminary rollback proposal ends on Thursday, with the agency likely to move forward with a final rule in coming months.
Internet companies including Amazon (AMZN) and Netflix (NFLX) along with online civil rights and free speech groups have supported the 2015 rules, saying they promoted innovation and protected free expression online.
Apple didn’t take a specific position on the common carrier issue in its comments. “Apple remains open to alternative sources of legal authority, but only if they provide for strong, enforceable, and legally sustainable protections, like those in place today,” Hogan wrote. “Simply put, the internet is too important to consumers and too essential to innovation to be left unprotected and uncertain.”