Akamai Wants FCC to Fill a Gap in Net Neutrality Draft Order

Akamai asked the FCC to amend the draft order to clarify that the ban on paid prioritization does not restrict ISP agreements with CDNs.

Akamai Wants FCC to Fill a Gap in Net Neutrality Draft Order
Photo of Akamai Counsel Paul Caritj from HWG

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2024 – Ahead of the Federal Communications Commission’s April 25 vote to adopt Net Neutrality regulations, various advocates and industries are seeking changes to Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s draft order released on April 4.

For example, Stanford Law School Professor Barbara van Schewick and New America Open Technology Institute executive Michael Calabrese want to see changes to the FCC’s neutral approach to 5G network slicing.

Verizon and CTIA are concerned the FCC didn’t slam the door hard enough on states that thinking about adopting their own Net Neutrality rules.

Gigi Sohn and Greg Guice of the Affordable Broadband Campaign have recently written about their disappointment in Rosenworcel’s decision to exempt broadband ISPs from Universal Service Fund contributions.

And then there’s Akamai Technologies, Inc. Based in Cambridge, Mass., Akamai operates content delivery networks (CDNs), which consist of geographically distributed servers that speed up the delivery of web content by placing it near user locations. CDNs rely on caching, a process that temporarily stores files and copies in data centers.

Founded in 1998 primarily by two MIT mathematics professors, Akamai is a publicly traded company and has a market capitalization of $15.3 billion.

In an FCC meeting on Wednesday, Akamai representatives indicated concern that Rosenworcel’s draft left a big gap in the regulations. The Akamai team said in the meeting with top Rosenworcel aide Elizabeth Cuttner that the company appreciated that the draft order explicitly states that CDNs fall “outside the scope of broadband Internet access service,” a position taken by the FCC under Chairman Tom Wheeler in Net Neutrality regulations adopted in 2015.

But Akamai said it needs more. The company is concerned that without a clear statement from the FCC that 2015 policy remains unchanged, its relationships with ISPs could be seen as paid prioritization, which is banned in Rosenworcel’s draft rules.

“There have been no changes to CDN technology or the marketplace since 2015 that would warrant a different approach,” said Akamai Counsel Paul Caritj.

Akamai explained, “Just as in 2015, CDNs store copies of content in efficient locations in the topology of the Internet. This localization of content does not involve ‘the management of a broadband provider’s network to directly or indirectly favor some traffic over other traffic’; rather it improves network performance for the entire Internet ecosystem.”

As Broadband Breakfast previously reported, Akamai representatives in February engaged with top FCC officials on this issue as Rosenworcel’s aides were drafting the Net Neutrality regulations.

Content Delivery Networks Want to Be Excluded From Net Neutrality Rules
CDNs were not covered in the 2015 net neutrality order, and Akamai wants to make sure it stays that way.

In the Net Neutrality draft order, the FCC suggested there was no change in the 2015 status quo. “We ... continue to view [CDNs], virtual private network (VPN) services, web hosting services, and data storage services as outside the scope of broadband Internet access service,” the draft order said.

Just to be sure it won’t encounter an enforcement issue down the road, Akamai requested that the FCC amend the draft order to include the following language: “Consistent with the 2015 Open Internet Order and the record, we clarify that the ban on paid prioritization does not restrict the ability of a broadband provider to enter into an agreement with a CDN to store content locally within the broadband provider’s network.”

Akamai will likely not face resistance as the FCC’s draft order noted that “commenters are unified in supporting the continued exclusion of such services [as CDNs] from the definition of [Broadband Internet access service] (BIAS).”

Nevertheless, NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association filed comments last December suggesting the FCC needed to “recognize the multi-layered nature of the Internet ecosystem and to promote a regulatory framework that addresses the potential failure of underlying networks that would undermine consumer access.”

NTCA added, “In the first instance, this should focus not upon retail regulation of last-mile networks, but rather specifically upon transport and transmission of data across all networks, platforms, and CDNs that play a role in this process.”

Popular Tags