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Apple to FCC: Protect net neutrality and don’t allow online fast lanes

It’s the company’s first comments in the 2017 debate.

  • The iPhone maker specifically urged Chairman Ajit Pai not to roll back an existing ban against so-called "fast lanes," which might allow broadband providers someday to charge for faster delivery of tech companies' movies, music or other content.
  • Apple doesn't take an explicit position on the real legal issue at hand — if the FCC should protect the open internet by treating telecom giants similar to utilities.

Apple is breaking its silence on net neutrality, urging the Trump administration to preserve strong rules that prevent the likes of AT&T, Charter, Comcast* and Verizon from blocking or interfering with web traffic.

In its new comments to the Federal Communications Commission, the iPhone maker specifically urged Chairman Ajit Pai not to roll back an existing ban against so-called "fast lanes," which might allow broadband providers someday to charge for faster delivery of tech companies' movies, music or other content.

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Apple doesn't take an explicit position on the real legal issue at hand — if the FCC should protect the open internet by treating telecom giants similar to utilities. That's the net neutrality approach currently on the U.S. government's books, and it's one that Pai — with the backing of companies like AT&T and Comcast — hopes to scrap.

Instead, Apple only shares its more general views about the need for net neutrality safeguards -- a position's taking because Apple itself serves up music and movies, while investing in its own content, that it can't so easily deliver to consumers if internet service providers stand in the way.

"Broadband providers should not block, throttle, or otherwise discriminate against lawful websites and services," Apple said in its comments. "Far from new, this has been a foundational principle of the FCC's approach to net neutrality for over a decade. Providers of online goods and services need assurance that they will be able to reliably reach their customers without interference from the underlying broadband provider."

"Lifting the current ban on paid prioritization arrangements could allow broadband providers to favor the transmission of one provider's content or services (or the broadband provider's own online content or services) over other online content, fundamentally altering the internet as we know it today—to the detriment of consumers, competition, and innovation," Apple explained.

"Apple remains open to alternative sources of legal authority, but only if they provide for strong, enforceable, and legally sustainable protections, like those in place today," it concluded. "Simply put, the internet is too important to consumers and too essential to innovation to be left unprotected and uncertain."

* Comcast, through its NBCU arm, is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this website.

By Tony Romm, Re/code.net.

CNBC's parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode's parent Vox, and the companies have a content-sharing arrangement.