GM warns against Internet rules

General Motors is warning the Federal Communications Commission that tough rules on Internet service providers could hurt the auto industry.

“The coming years will see rapid innovation at the intersection of cars and mobile communications,” Harry Lightsey, executive director of GM’s Global Connected Consumer initiative, wrote last week in a letter obtained by The Hill.

“By needlessly constraining the latitude our mobile network operator suppliers have in delivering their connectivity to owners of our vehicles, you would also constrain the innovations we are seeking to provide to our customers,” Lightsey wrote.

Already, some cars stream Internet radio, offer Wi-Fi signals and connect to the Web to gather information about traffic and weather.

The FCC’s previous rules on net neutrality, which seek to prevent Internet service providers like Comcast or Cox from blocking or slowing access to specific websites, did not apply to mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

However, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has dropped hints that he is strongly considering changing that with its new rules.

GM’s opposition could give critics of that step extra ammunition in their push to prevent the FCC from including the wireless industry.

Supporters of the wireless industry have noted that wireless services rely on different technology and that the sector is more competitive than the high-speed broadband Internet market, which Wheeler has complained about in the past. 

“From our point of view, mobile broadband being delivered to a car moving at 75 mph down a highway — or for that matter, suck in a massive spontaneous traffic jam — is a fundamentally different phenomenon from a wired broadband connection to a consumer’s home, and merits continued consideration under distinct rules that take this in to account,” Lightsey wrote.

On Wednesday morning, the head of the wireless industry's trade association warned the FCC against extending the rules.

“If we treat wireless like fixed broadband, we not only will fail to meet the mobile moment, we may lose it for a generation,” Meredith Attwell Baker, the head of CTIA-The Wireless Association said, according to prepared remarks.

Critics of Wheeler’s net neutrality proposal earlier this year feared that it was too weak and could allow for “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” online.