Companies that provide facilities-based wireline broadband (i.e., those who own the last-mile wires) to residences must provide unrestricted Internet access to their customers who wish to purchase Internet access, allowing the use of any Internet service or application that does not violate any laws or cause degradation or disruption to the service or other customers. The provider may engage in filtering for consumer-grade service in order to prevent the spread of malware and the sending of spam, including (for example) SMTP filtering or redirection to the provider's mail services, but must allow the purchase of business-grade service under which customers may operate their own mail servers. The provider retains the right to suspend service or quarantine users that send spam, become compromised with malware, or engage in illegal activity or activity that disrupts the service.
Providers must unbundle Internet access from other services sold over the same connection, so that a customer may use the entire capacity of the circuit for Internet access.
These two requirements would give me what I want as a customer, as well as give the provider the ability to recover their costs, provide services that use QoS, provide additional filtering to protect their network and the rest of their customer base from malware, and so on. I think it's quite reasonable for a basic consumer Internet service to do port 25 filtering, force the use of the provider's mail servers, and to do network-based filtering of malware--but I would like the ability to pay extra for completely unfiltered Internet service and take steps to protect myself. And in fact, that's what I'm currently paying Cox for today--I pay for business-grade service to my home in order to run my own servers here, though I could put those servers into a colo facility and get the same effect, which is what I would do if Cox decided to discontinue offering business-class service to residences. Because that option exists, it would not be necessary to mandate that providers must provide business class service as I described above, but I'd still want to be able to ensure that I could access my remotely hosted services from home.
How this differs from what many network neutrality advocates are arguing for:
1. I don't prohibit QoS or tiering, as that is a genuinely useful network feature where I expect to see future innovation of services that depend on it.
2. The nondiscrimination provision is written to allow some kind of less-than-full-Internet walled garden service at low cost--so long as customers can still purchase real Internet service. (I think such a service would be under competitive pressure to allow access to the full Internet, for the same reason AOL ended up allowing full Internet access--otherwise the service wouldn't attract enough users to be a successful product offering.)
3. I don't prohibit differential pricing for different services and classes of service.
4. I don't set any restrictions on contractual arrangements (apart from these two restrictions), including interconnection agreements or who pays. I think that should be left to private negotiation and competition.
5. I don't extend these requirements to other types of Internet providers such as backbone providers or those providing business services, as those are areas with plenty of competition.
6. I don't extend these requirements to wireless providers, because I think that with sensible market-based allocation of spectrum, there could be plenty of independent competition with much less capital expenditure than for wireline deployment.
I could possibly be persuaded that there is a place for common carriage requirements, especially for access circuits to businesses, which is where the last-mile providers could really engage in anti-competitive behavior against backbone providers that don't own a lot of last-mile wires (e.g., Level 3, Global Crossing, Sprint), now that the major telco last-mile providers have each merged with a major backbone provider themselves (Qwest/U.S. West, AT&T/SBC/BellSouth, Verizon/MCI). This requirement currently exists in the law for telcos, and unlike the common carriage requirement for DSL, is not planned to go away next year.
I would not put the above into the purview of the FCC, at least not with their current dispute resolution procedures which favor the telcos. Paul Kouroupas at Global Crossing (also my employer) has been arguing for "baseball-style" or final arbitration dispute resolution, where each side submits their best and final offer to an arbitrator, who chooses the best. This provides incentive for each side to try to reach the best agreement up front, as well as a process that can proceed quickly, without any government involvement or expense. This suggestion is the second point of Global Crossing's proposed REFORM legislative agenda. (Unbundling and common carriage of bottlenecks such as last-mile access circuits are the sixth point.)
Comments, criticisms? I should add that I believe what I've spelled out above is pretty close to what I've heard is in Sen. Stevens' telecom reform bill, though I haven't read it and I suspect he applies the nondiscrimination and unbundling requirements more widely than to residential broadband.