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As Net Neutrality Wins in Court, Partners Applaud Open Internet Efforts

A federal appeals court ruled in favor of upholding Net Neutrality on Tuesday, much to the chagrin of internet service providers. But the channel partner community is largely in favor of open internet efforts.

The hotly debated Net Neutrality doctrine was upheld by a federal appeals court Tuesday, marking high-speed internet services as a utility. The decision has frustrated broadband and cable providers, but the channel partner community isn't sharing their pain.

Yesterday's victory for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) bans Internet service providers (ISPs) from prioritizing specific traffic – also known as creating "fast lanes" -- or blocking or slowing certain websites or content, a practice known as throttling. The ruling also reclassifies wireless or fixed-line broadband providers as ’common carriers,’ which gives the FCC permission to regulate them as it regulates telephone service providers.

Many partners are standing in favor of Net Neutrality. By putting a stop to anti-competitive behaviors, such as paid prioritization, the ruling ensures that the internet will remain open, partners say.

[Related: Telecoms Battle Net Neutrality With New Initiatives While Channel Remains Split On Debate]

"Net neutrality is good for everyone, unless you're a major provider," said Michael Bremmer, CEO of TelecomQuotes.com, a telecom consultancy firm. "The carriers continue to [take] government money to build and support the internet. Everything has a cost, and this cost is regulation when you take Uncle Sam's money."

Telarus, a Sandy, Utah-based master agent, has a large supplier portfolio with a number of broadband and cable provider partners, and agrees with Bremmer's outlook.

"We are glad to see that the internet will remain open, with equal access for all, at least on the surface," said Patrick Oborn, co-founder of Telarus.

TelecomQuotes.com, based in Moreno Valley, Calif., partners with many of the major internet service providers (ISPs). Bremmer believes that if broadband providers aren't being held in check, content providers like Netflix can't exist.

"The irony of this is, without all the content companies, the internet doesn't grow," he said.

The FCC is also pleased with the court's decision.

’After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections – both on fixed and mobile networks – that will ensure the Internet remains open, now and in the future,’ FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement.


Meanwhile, the large ISPs, including AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, are already pledging to contest the most recent ruling, claiming that the FCC doesn't have the authority to reclassify broadband providers as common carriers, especially mobile broadband providers.

Net Neutrality was shot down in 2014 when the federal court ruled that the FCC couldn't regulate broadband providers because they weren't common carriers.

Regarding the latest court decision, David McAtee, AT&T's senior executive vice president and general counsel, said in a statement, "We have always expected this issue to be decided by the Supreme Court, and we look forward to participating in that appeal.’

Comcast, for its part, said that although the appellate court's decision is unlikely the final word, it will review the decision before it determines next steps.

"Though disappointed in today’s result, we are particularly gratified by Judge Williams’ recognition of the ’watery thin and self-contradictory’ nature of the FCC arguments used to justify the imposition of common carriage laws on Internet networks," Comcast said in a statement on the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) website.

Verizon did not return CRN's request for comment on the Net Neutrality debate prior to publication.

One of the arguments against Net Neutrality implies that the latest ruling will discourage ISPs from investing in their infrastructures, a supposition that is largely a "smokescreen," according to Telarus' Oborn.

Broadband and cable providers have to invest in their networks to keep pace with the growing demand for quality bandwidth, or they can expect defections, he said.

"Considering that the monthly recurring revenue derived by fiber access is among the most margin-rich in their portfolio, it would reason that carriers will do everything in their power to protect their fiber market share – which means investing in their back-end networks, regardless of what their spokespeople say in front of the news cameras," Oborn said.

The nonprofit Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), like Comcast, also took issue with ISPs being labeled as common carriers, and called the court's ruling "disappointing."


"Classification of broadband as a common carrier … was a mistake. Common carriage is simply a very poor fit for regulating the rapidly evolving technology that underpins today’s broadband networks and allows them to adapt to the changing demands we place on them," according to Robert Atkinson, ITIF president.

"We hope the Supreme Court or Congress will now put us back on the right track. As it stands, we are dooming ourselves to stagnant, one-size-fits-all networks," Atkinson continued.

To that end, some business users are okay with the idea of traffic prioritization. For those customers, "fast lanes" can still be created using a combination of multiple providers simultaneously and software-defined networking (SDN) technology, Telarus' Oborn said.

Because SDN can help direct traffic to the best route on the fly, this technology could be "the great equalizer" if a provider tries to throttle certain traffic, he added.

"By leveraging SDN, which is now affordable even to smaller businesses, and circuit monitoring technology that can measure and archive [internet provider] performance, small businesses will have the information they need to pick and choose the [providers] that are doing it right," Oborn said.

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