ACA tells FCC to also look out for 'edge providers' in net neutrality debate

While most of the million-plus net-neutrality comments delivered to the FCC recently have focused on the behavior of Internet service providers, the American Cable Association (ACA) has formally asked the Commission to also consider Internet content, applications and service providers.

Notably, the ACA--which represents small and mid-sized cable companies--is concerned about programming companies shutting off access to free online content to consumers if their ISP is involved in a pay TV carriage dispute. For example, in its ongoing impasse with Media One, Viacom has been accused of denying Media One ISP subscribers access to programming which is typically available for free on its website.

"Edge providers that offer sufficiently important content to end users of the Internet, such as popular search engines, social networks, online retailers and online video providers, can severely threaten the overall value of broadband access services and the Internet by limiting access to their content in a commercially unreasonable manner," the ACA's letter states.

"These concerns are not merely hypothetical," it adds. "The past five years have witnessed a number of examples where Internet edge providers who are online video distributors, like Disney, CBS, Fox and Viacom have selectively blocked or threatened to block access to content otherwise made freely available on the Internet to users served by broadband ISPs. We have also seen Internet edge providers purposely degrading end user experiences, such as Neocities, for the purpose of sending a message to select Internet users. While proponents of open Internet rules have highlighted examples of large broadband ISPs engaging in practices that might threaten the openness of the Internet, the experience of smaller ISPs has been the reverse: blocked and degraded access for their customers at the hands of large Internet edge providers."

The ACA filed its letter July 17, just under the extended FCC deadline for net neutrality commentary. 

For more:
- read this ACA press release
- read this Multichannel News story

Related links:
Viacom shuts down online access for Cable One subscribers
Net neutrality: Cohen says Comcast not 'degrading' content, Netflix tells FCC to classify ISPs as utility
Verizon: Reclassifying broadband under Title II will endanger the entire Internet ecosystem
Netflix keeps up net neutrality chatter, continues verbal spat with Verizon