WASHINGTON, February 16, 2011 - The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and AT&T submitted a letter Monday to the Federal Communications Commission requesting that the Commission clarify its recently announced net neutrality rules as they relate to backbone internet services.
The letter to Chairman, Julius Genachowski asks that the Commission “promptly and publicly affirm that Internet peering and other Internet backbone services, including the backbone arrangements described by Level 3 and Comcast” are not subject to the recently announced network neutrality rules.
The current dispute between Comcast and Level 3 began after Level 3 signed a deal with online video provider Netflix . Level 3's network currently delivers content such as video, audio, and games to networks operated by cable and telephone companies, which in turn transmit the data over the "last mile" of the Internet into subscriber's homes. Comcast has indicated it would like to change the two companies peering arrangement in order to accomodate the expected uptick in traffic coming from Level 3 as Netflix traffic increases.
The FCC voted late last year to expand and cement its network openness principles with the Open Internet Order. AT&T and the NCTA have expressed concerned that the new FCC rules could reach into areas of internet service beyond the Commission's intent. The rules, they contend, are designed for end users of the internet and not the core commercial services that providers negotiate with each other.
NCTA and AT&T ask in the letter that the FCC "swiftly, clearly and publicly affirm that arrangements for Internet peering and other Internet backbone services are not subject to the net neutrality rules, and that the agency will decline efforts to become involved in these commercial disputes."
The Order is not currently expected to be enforced until this summer, but the industry is looking for clarification ahead of time. The new rules are expected to be put in place on a case-by-case basis but there is no sign yet from the FCC on how the new rules will be applied in order to provide certainty and clarity for internet providers.