Issues

Net Neutrality

Defining the Issue

Rules to protect the Open Internet are under consideration in many jurisdictions around the world. The details of these proposals matter. If done carefully, such rules could encourage network investment, provide for network management and encourage new specialized services to develop. But if rules are overly restrictive, they could inhibit the innovation that Cisco believes should be encouraged.

Strict Net neutrality legislation would limit the terms, conditions, and potentially prices set by broadband Internet service providers. This could restrict their ability to use innovative network management technology, provide appropriate levels of quality of service, and deliver new features and services to meet evolving consumer needs.

Cisco believes that allowing the development of differentiated broadband products, with different service and content offerings, will enhance the broadband market for consumers.

Background

The Internet has gone from use by a handful of technically savvy people to an essential part of the daily lives of hundreds of millions. The Internet has been an unqualified success, adopted faster and used more creatively than almost any other technology in human history.

With the increase in Internet usage, consumer appetite for high-bandwidth content such as streaming video, interactive gaming and content sharing continues to grow. The quality-of-service and throughput requirements of such content bring concerns about network congestion, as well as infrastructure investment and development.

This can been addressed in part by technology developments that allow service providers to differentiate among data types or sources. These technology advancements can be used to "schedule" or "prioritize" certain types of data traffic to improve network management and provide premium services.

Strict Net neutrality advocates recommend legal and regulatory restrictions on broadband Internet access services to effectively mandate the terms, conditions, and prices set by broadband service providers and outright ban technologies.

It would restrict their ability to use innovative technology to manage their networks, provide appropriate levels of quality of service, and deliver new features and services to meet evolving consumer needs. These advocates believe that greater regulation is needed to prevent service providers from limiting bandwidth or services and creating two classes of Internet experience.

Cisco believes that this approach can go too far and may be potentially harmful. Many of the Internet's benefits come from its open nature and the ability of anyone to develop new and innovative devices and services that connect to it. Such innovation has created entirely new industries and has fostered competitive markets in Internet applications and equipment. Allowing broadband service providers to innovate freely and differentiate their networks will enable them to provide consumers with to enhanced service offerings and richer content.

Cisco's Position

Cisco supports an open and innovative Internet, and believes that empowered consumers, maximum user choices, and a free marketplace are the keys to maintaining an open and innovative Internet.

As such, Cisco helped produce the 2003 High Tech Broadband Coalition's Connectivity Principles, which were embodied in the FCC's Policy Statement of 2005. The Connectivity Principles and FCC Policy Statement protect consumers with information and the ability to use the Internet in an open fashion.

Cisco continues to support these principles:

  • Broadband Internet consumers should have access to their choice of legal Internet content within the bandwidth limits and quality of service of their service plan.
  • Broadband Internet consumers should be able to run applications of their choice, within the bandwidth limits and quality of service of their service plans, as long as they do not harm the provider's network.
  • Consumers should be permitted to attach any devices they choose to their broadband Internet access connection at the consumer's premises, so long as they operate within the bandwidth limits and quality of service of their service plans and do not harm the provider's network or enable theft of services.
  • Consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.

In addition, Cisco supports:

  • The use of network management tools by Internet access providers to improve the Internet experience as long as there is no anti-competitive impact.
  • The ability of broadband Internet access service providers to engage in pro-competitive network management techniques to alleviate congestion, ameliorate capacity constraints, and enable new services.
  • The ability of broadband Internet access service providers to offer additional services to supplement broadband Internet access, including bandwidth tiers, quality of service, security, anti-virus and anti-spam services, network management services, as well as to enter into commercially negotiated agreements with unaffiliated parties for the provision of such additional services.