Over the last few weeks a group of thinkers, led mostly by Seth Johnson, has put forward an interesting idea. They suggest that perhaps one of the best ways to preserve what is best about the internet is to make it illegal to represent non-neutral internet offerings as “internet service.”
In other words, if you offer a tiered plan or block some sites and call you service an “internet service,” you've broken the law.
The idea is clever. One of the challenges in any proposed rule is distinguishing between what carriers ought and need to have the right to do, and what are distortionary practices. The proposed rule gives carriers the right to, say, set up a private IP-TV service that has nothing really to do with the internet, without breaking the law.
But there's an obvious problem with the proposal as well. What happens when AT&T relabels their internet services (as they already do the “AT&T Yahoo high speed internet broadband experience?” And puts in place a disclaimer: this is not pure “internet service” as defined in USC ?” I think to a lawyers eyes the proposed rule seems quite easy to avoid.
On the other hand, it sheds light on something very important. The proposed Net Neutrality rules haven't done enough to force network providers to disclose what, exactly, they are selling their customers. There is no argument against broadband disclosure rules that has any strength — its as simple as the case for accurate ingredient labels on food.