Comcast says Internet fast lanes may encourage self-driving innovation

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is planning to gut the 2015 net neutrality laws, which declared that internet service providers (ISPs) could not offer paid prioritization to web companies and lower speeds for other services.

Comcast is happy to see the regulations go, it was one of the ISPs that introduced fast lanes, most notably forcing Netflix to pay or face slower service. However, it is no longer looking to tax web companies, instead it has set its sights on developing businesses that require faster speeds.

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One of those, according to Comcast’s filed comments, is autonomous cars.

“The Commission also should bear in mind that a more flexible approach to prioritization may be warranted and may be beneficial to the public,” said Comcast. “For example, a telepresence service tailored for the hearing impaired requires high-definition video that is of sufficiently reliable quality to permit users “to perceive subtle hand and finger motions” in real time. And paid prioritization may have other compelling applications in telemedicine.”

“Likewise, for autonomous vehicles that may require instantaneous data transmission, black letter prohibitions on paid prioritization may actually stifle innovation instead of encouraging it.”

Comcast is not the first to assert that fast lanes may be required for intensive tasks like self-driving and telemedicine. German Chancellor Angela Merkel made similar comments in 2014, arguing that special priority service was required for services that have an impact on everyday life.

While creating fast lanes for services that aren’t touched by everyday consumers might generate less income for Comcast and other ISPs, it may also reduce the amount of backlash. Consumers hate when Netflix is slow, but they won’t have the same connection to a Waymo or Uber self-driving car, at least not until the cars are available to most U.S. consumers.

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