L2Networks filed a net neutrality complaint with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission Tuesday against a Georgia utility and broadband provider Albany Water after the utility accused the VoIP firm of theft of service for using its network to deliver voice service without paying for it.
This complaint is the first formal complaint since the FCC (News - Alert) passed net neutrality rules in December 2010. Net neutrality rules give the FCC the authority to step into disputes about how Internet service providers (ISPs) are managing their networks or initiate their own investigations if they think ISPs are violating its rules.
The net neutrality rules basically get broken down into three high-level rules: transparency, no blocking, and no unreasonable discrimination. The transparency requirement basically requires broadband providers, fixed and wireless, to be more transparent about their activities; how they manage their networks, how their networks perform, and details about plan options and pricing. Under the FCC rules, an ISP is not able to pick and choose apps or services to block in order to improve network performance.
The FCC acknowledges that network management is necessary to block harmful things like malware and child porn, from making its way onto ISP networks. The no unreasonable discrimination rule prohibits companies from blocking other networks because it competes with their own service or eats up bandwidth.
According to L2Networks, Albany Water’s assertion that the VoIP provider should be paying for access to its fiber-optic network violates the FCC’s net neutrality rules barring broadband network providers from selectively discriminating against Web-based content and service. If the FCC allows Albany Water’s attempt to collect payments from L2Networks to move forward, other broadband network operators may be emboldened to seek money from popular Web-based services such as Google (News - Alert), Facebook and Netflix.
The case could lead to an “irreversible ripple effect along with the creation of various legal challenges across nearly every national content and application provider,” said Kraig Beahn, L2Networks CEO. “We are deeply concerned that the alleged claim could potentially change the landscape of the national Internet marketplace as residential and commercial consumers see it today.”
“The real issue is the possibility that nearly an ISP can file a theft-of-service complaint if they feel another competitive application service provider intrudes upon their territory or simply wishes to remove such competition from the local marketplace,” he added.
L2Networks purchases Ethernet transport from Albany Water in order to serve its voice and Internet customers and provides IP transit services to Albany Water. The theft-of-service complaint stems from a single customer that uses L2Neworks VoIP service over Albany Water’s broadband service.