Verizon Tells Sen. Leahy It Has No Plans to Prioritize Internet Traffic

Verizon Communications Inc. on Wednesday told a federal lawmaker it has no plans to enter into agreements to give certain content providers faster speeds over the Internet.

Consumer advocacy groups have pressed the Federal Communications Commission to impose Net neutrality regulations that would prevent Internet service providers from creating slow and fast lanes on the Web. Verizon and its peers maintain the concerns over so-called paid prioritization are hypothetical and don’t warrant the imposition of monopoly-era regulations that would burden the industry.

“In the current Net neutrality debate, those favoring the replacement of traditional light-touch regulation with unprecedented utility-style regulation have fixated on the phantasm of ‘paid prioritization.’ Yet no major broadband provider has ever implemented paid prioritization, most have disavowed any interest in doing so, and no one has even offered a clear business case for paid prioritization,” Verizon Executive Vice President Randal Milch said in a letter to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont. “As we have said before, and affirm again here, Verizon has no plans to engage in paid prioritization of Internet traffic.”

Milch said the FCC has authority under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to bar forms of paid prioritization that the agency finds are likely to harm consumers and competition.

The FCC is working on crafting Net neutrality regulations to preserve the openness of the Internet in a proceeding that has yielded an astonishing 3.9 million comments. Two other attempts to regulate the Internet have been struck down by a federal appeals court in Washington.

In letters sent this month to four Internet service providers including AT&T and Verizon, Leahy expressed concerns over the prospect of paid prioritization agreements and asked for commitments that companies would not enter into such agreements.

“Allowing the Internet to become a two-tiered system of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ controlled by a small number of corporate gatekeepers, would destroy everything that has made it one of the greatest innovations in human history,” Leahy wrote.  “We need meaningful pledges from our Nation’s broadband providers that they share the American public’s commitment to an Internet that remains open and equally accessible to all.”

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