Comcast and AT&T Tell U.S. Don’t Micromanage the Internet

AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. told U.S. regulators who vote on open-Internet rules May 15 to reject “micromanagement” that may include setting prices for how companies route Web traffic.

If the Federal Communications Commission applies rules written for telephone networks to Web traffic, the agency would be on a “slippery slope” with “sweeping authority to regulate all Internet-based companies,” the companies’ chief executive officers said in a letter today to the FCC.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal last month to let content companies pay for better service in so-called fast lanes sparked a backlash. Wheeler, who is trying to replace rules rejected by a court in January, is seeking votes of two Democratic colleagues who join him in the agency’s majority and have stated concerns with his latest approach.

Yesterday Wheeler sent colleagues a proposal that raised the possibility of rate and service regulation discussed today in the chief executives’ letter. Wheeler still prefers his plan to rely on less-sweeping authority, said an agency official who spoke on condition of not being named because the proposal hasn’t been made public.

Last week companies including Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. said Wheeler’s fast-lane plan represents a “grave threat” to an open Internet where all traffic is treated equally.

In today’s letter from the CEOs, AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, Verizon’s Lowell McAdam and Comcast’s Brian Roberts joined 28 leaders of companies and trade groups advocating a “light-touch approach” to avoid stifling investment.

Verizon and AT&T are the largest U.S. telephone companies, and Comcast is the nation’s biggest cable company.

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