Mozilla might not be as big as Google or Netflix in most consumers’ minds but as the maker of the popular Firefox browser, it does have some clout. That’s why it’s noteworthy that Mozilla on Monday recommended that the Federal Communications Commission use the “nuclear option” against Internet service providers by reclassifying them as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act.
Title II regulations were designed to regulate old telephone networks as part of the 1934 Communications Act, which was most recently overhauled to include updated rules in 1996. Former FCC chairman Julius Genachowski had originally planned to reclassify ISPs under Title II back in 2010 but he backed down under pressure and implemented Title II-type restrictions on landline ISPs without officially reclassifying them. This patchwork regulatory approach got shot down earlier this year when the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the FCC’s 2010 order and left ISPs free to do whatever they want.
Mozilla says that this is an untenable situation and that ISPs simply can’t be allowed to create a two-tiered Internet where companies who pay more get special “fast lanes” for their data.
“Categorizing remote delivery services as telecommunications services is consistent with the guidelines set by both Congress and the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, and would give the FCC ample ability to adopt and enforce meaningful net neutrality,” Mozilla writes. “With clear authority and effective rules, ISPs would be prevented from blocking or discriminating against any edge provider, whether on a wireline or wireless network.”
While both Google and Netflix have paid lip service in the past to support net neutrality, neither of them as gone on the record supporting reclassifying ISPs as common carriers. However, if they were to add their voices to Mozilla’s, it would be a potential game changer that would set up the biggest battle between the tech industry and another industry since the great SOPA fight of 2012.