Verizon Lawyer Craig Silliman Talks Net Neutrality

Verizon's stance on Net Neutrality rules has changed a bit since they were first enacted, so their General Counsel, Craig Silliman, made a video talking over the company's stance on Net Neutrality rules, the FCC's plans to abolish those rules, and some clarification on exactly why the current FCC and its chairman, Ajit Pai, are so against the Net Neutrality laws in their current form. Essentially, Silliman says that Verizon has always supported Net Neutrality rules and will continue to do so, but that putting ISPs under the same Title II legal framework as utility providers is unnecessary for the enforcement of those rules. While Pai and the FCC have yet to reveal any sort of replacement proposal for Net Neutrality, Silliman assures watchers that Net Neutrality rules are here to stay, but will be put under a different legal framework.

Silliman likened the current situation to a scenario involving homeowners in a city. He presented a hypothetical scenario in which a mayor wants to pass and enforce a new law that prohibits homeowners from keeping people from walking up their front lawns, allowing continued daily operations for occupations like postal workers, salespeople, and the like. To pass this law, however, the mayor demands complete authority over all homeowners' property. According to Silliman, the goal of the FCC's current actions is not to eliminate Net Neutrality, but to make it enforceable and able to protect the open internet without having to hand over full ISP control to the FCC or any other entity.

When Net Neutrality rules were first established back in 2011, they did not include the reclassification of ISPs as Title II utility entities. This meant that the new rules were in place as a set of strong suggestions of sorts, backed by regulators from multiple jurisdictions. Verizon was actually one of the earliest to challenge the ruling, suing the FCC and saying that they were unable to enforce the new rules. After years of consumers, ISPs, and regulators butting heads over the issue, FCC head Tom Wheeler reclassified ISPs as Title II entities in order to put them under the FCC's purview. While this allowed the enforcement of Net Neutrality rules in full, it also gave the FCC authority to regulate things like price, services, and agreements in the telecom world. According to Silliman, this is the part that Pai is opposing, but nobody is actually looking to open the door to the sort of practices that Net Neutrality was meant to guard against, like slow lanes and censorship. The notion that Net Neutrality principles are good but are being enforced in the wrong way is a common one among proponents of Pai's war on Title II regulation. Abolishing Title II classification for ISPs could leave the door open to have Net Neutrality rules thrown out entirely, and nobody can know for sure if that's what Pai is planning until he puts out his Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

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