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Apple breaks silence to defend net neutrality

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Apple breaks silence to defend net neutrality

Apple broke its silence on net neutrality Thursday, urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to keep in place rules on how broadband providers treat web traffic.

“Broadband providers should not create paid fast lanes on the internet,” Apple’s vice president of public policy, Cynthia Hogan, wrote in the four-page comment to the agency. “Lifting the current ban on paid prioritization arrangements could allow broadband providers to favor the transmission of one provider’s content or services.”

The letter is in response to Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal to scrap the Obama-era rules, which require broadband providers to treat all web traffic equally.

Apple, though, avoided endorsing the rules in their current form.

It laid out its case for net neutrality by focusing on five areas: consumer choice, fast lanes, transparency, competition, innovation and investment. The company said those principles should “form the foundation of any net neutrality framework going forward.”

The Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant also avoided commenting on whether broadband providers should be regulated like public utilities, a key feature of the net neutrality rules.

Supporters of strong net neutrality rules argue that broadband companies should be regulated as “common carriers” like railroads or other public utilities. Critics of the rules say companies have their own incentives to follow net neutrality principles without heavy-handed regulation from the FCC.

Apple’s letter is markedly shorter and less detailed than other tech companies who have weighed in on the debate.

Companies like AT&T, Verizon and Microsoft filed detailed net neutrality comments that were dozens of pages long.

Apple focused on general arguments in favor of net neutrality.

The company also noted that it could be open to net neutrality rules being enforced by a different regulator than the FCC, but “only if they provide for strong, enforceable, and legally sustainable protections, like those in place today.”

With the FCC poised to strike down the rules, Democrats in Congress like Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii) have made similar statements. But they also say they have not seen a plan that would protect net neutrality as strongly as the FCC.

Republicans argue the Federal Trade Commission is better equipped to police broadband providers.

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