WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Verizon Communications Inc on Wednesday reasserted that it was not planning to strike any Internet "fast lane" deals that would help some websites load faster than others, in a letter to a top U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee lawmaker.
The committee's chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy, last week wrote to top U.S. Internet service providers (ISPs) urging them to formally commit to no so-called "paid prioritization" deals in which content companies could pay ISPs to ensure smooth and fast delivery of their traffic.
Verizon on Wednesday wrote back, calling paid prioritization a "phantasm."
"As we have said before, and affirm again here, Verizon has no plans to engage in paid prioritization of Internet traffic," Verizon's general counsel Randal Milch said in the letter.
"Unfortunately, the fever pitch over 'paid prioritization' and 'fast lanes' among advocates of greater Internet regulation is just demagoguery since no major ISP has expressed an interest in offering 'paid prioritization' and all agree that the FCC has a valid legal path to prohibit it."
The Federal Communications Commission has received almost 4 million comments after it proposed new web traffic, or "net neutrality," rules that would prohibit ISPs from blocking content, but suggested allowing some "commercially reasonable" paid prioritization deals.
Other Large ISPs, including Comcast and AT&T, have been asserting that they had no plans for such paid prioritization arrangements and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said he would not tolerate anti-competitive or anti-consumer prioritization deals.
Nonetheless, consumer advocates and other critics are concerned that opening the door for paid prioritization could create "fast lanes" for some content and so relegate other websites and applications to "slow lanes."
What some critics have instead requested is for the FCC to reclassify ISPs so they are regulated more like public utilities, which the broadband companies say will hamper investments and innovation.
In its letter on Wednesday, Verizon argued that the FCC has other legal options to prevent harmful paid prioritization without needing to resort to reclassification of ISPs.
The FCC is writing new net neutrality rules after a U.S. appeals court in January struck down their previous version in a case brought by Verizon.
The 2010 net neutrality rules allowed "commercially reasonable" discrimination of traffic, but indicated that the FCC would disapprove of potential "pay-for-priority" deals.
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Chris Reese)