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Internet providers noncommittal on plans for fast, slow lanes

| Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017, 9:00 p.m.

NEW YORK — Now that federal telecom regulators have repealed net neutrality, it may be time to brace for the arrival of internet “fast lanes” and “slow lanes.”

The net neutrality rules voted down by the Federal Communications Commission prohibited such “paid prioritization,” as it's technically known. That's when an internet provider such as Verizon or Comcast decides to charge services such as YouTube or Amazon for faster access to users. Firms that decline to pay up could wind up in bumper-to-bumper slow lanes.

The Associated Press queried major internet providers about their post-net-neutrality plans, and all of them equivocated when asked if they might establish fast and slow lanes. None of the seven companies — Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Sprint and T-Mobile — would rule out the possibility. Most merely said they had “no plans” for paid prioritization, and a few declined to answer the question.

By contrast, several of these firms promised not to block or slow down specific internet sites and services, two other practices prohibited by the expiring net-neutrality rules. Any such move could set off a public uproar and might even trigger an antitrust investigation.

Here are the net-neutrality promises from some of the country's biggest wireless and cable companies.

Verizon

Fast lanes: No specific response.

Block or slow down sites: Says it doesn't do so, but declined to address the future.

Their words: In a Nov. 21 statement, Verizon senior vice president Kathy Grillo said: “We continue to believe that users should be able to access the internet when, where and how they choose, and our customers will continue to do so.” Asked whether Verizon will continue to not block or throttle content or whether it will charge internet companies to get better access to customers, Young said Verizon “does not block or throttle content, and that's the bottom line.”

AT&T

Fast lanes: No specific response.

Block or slow sites: Says it “will not” do so.

Their words: Spokesman Mike Balmoris didn't specifically answer when asked if AT&T will create fast lanes. In a Nov. 30 blog post, AT&T senior executive vice president Bob Quinn said: “We will not block websites; we will not throttle or degrade internet traffic based on content; and we will not unfairly discriminate in our treatment of internet traffic.”Comcast

Fast lanes: Has “no plans” to create them.

Block or slow sites: Says it “will not” do so.

Their words: In a Dec. 14 blog post, senior executive vice president David Cohen said: “We will not block, throttle or discriminate against lawful content on the internet; we will be fully transparent with respect to our practices; and we have not entered into any paid prioritization arrangements, and we have no plans to do so.”

Sprint

Fast lanes: No specific response.

Block or slow down sites: Says it doesn't block sites, but declined to address the future.

Their words: In a press release on Dec. 14, Sprint wrote: “Our position has been and continues to be that competition is the best way to promote an open internet.” From its “open internet” website: “Sprint does not block sites based on content or subject.”

T-Mobile

Fast lanes: No response about future plans.

Block or slow down sites: No response about future plans.

Their words: A company spokeswoman pointed to a February 2015 statement from T-Mobile CEO John Legere: “We have always believed in competition and in a free, open internet with rules that protect net neutrality — no blocking, no discrimination, and transparency.”

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