Award Winning Blog

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Do Transparency and Non-Discrimination Requirements Impose De facto Common Carriage Duties?

Birtelcom has asked whether a Network Neutrality requirement of transparency and nondiscrimination in effect imposes a common carrier responsibility on ISPs serving Goggle to provide edge caching. Fair question.

As Information Service providers, not subject to Title II telecommunications service regulation of the Communications Act, ISPs do not have to provide any service they do not care to offer. This means that any ISP can elect not to offer edge caching, or any form of premium, better than best efforts routing. An ISP serving Goggle can decline to offer Google what it wants—as ill-advised as that would appear.

A Title I (ancillary jurisdiction) requirement of transparency and nondiscrimination would require any ISP, voluntarily electing to provide edge caching service, to do so in such as a way as to provide any similarly situated client the option of taking the premium service. This requirement does not impose common carriage and tariff filing duties. It only would prohibit ISPs from cutting exclusive, “most favored customer” arrangements that no other client would know about and have an opportunity to take.

ISPs should have the opportunity to offer tiered services that offer different levels of service. But in doing so, ISPs should not have the option of making exclusive deals, obscured by nondisclosure agreements.

Quality of service and price differentiation can provide legitimate and lawful discrimination, subject to conditions and sanctions. ISPs would trigger sanctions for engaging in unfair trade practices by degrading service, e.g., dropping packets, to non-premium customers in the absence of severe congestion, and by deliberately partitioning their networks so that best efforts routing options are guaranteed to achieve unacceptably inferior service.


Claudiu said...

i don't think so...

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