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FCC's Genachowski Proposes Modest Net Neutrality Expansion

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on September 21, 2009

The more fervent advocates of a tough Federal Communications Commission policy on network neutrality are likely to be disappointed by the relatively modest proposals announced by Chairman Julius Genachowski. But given that the fears of interference in Internet content by big telecommunications and cable operators have not come to pass, at least not yet, and the FCC’s limited mandate to regulate the Internet, Genachowski seems to be taking a measured and reasonable approach.

In a speech prepared for delivery at the Brookings Institution in Washington today, Genachowski proposed adding two new principles of network neutrality to the four adopted by the FCC in 2005. “The first would prevent Internet access providers from discriminating against particular Internet content or applications, while allowing for reasonable network management,” Genachowski said. “The second principle would ensure that Internet access providers are transparent about the network management practices they implement. The Chairman also proposed clarifying that all six principles apply to all platforms that access the Internet.”

The last point is likely to be the most controversial, since it appears to refer to wireless access. It has not been clear whether the 2005 principles applied to wireless operators as well as wired Internet service providers.

The two new principles will be the basis of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the first step in the often lengthy process of FCC policy adoption. Once the notice is published, the public will be invited to comment.

The four existing net neutrality principles are:

  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice.
  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to run applications and use services of their choice, subject to the needs of law enforcement.
  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network.
  • To encourage broadband deployment and preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of the public Internet, consumers are entitled to competition among network providers, application and service providers, and content providers.

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Reader Comments

linda boss

September 21, 2009 04:34 PM

I agree with the article, giving comsumers a fairer advangtage over providers is great.


September 22, 2009 11:04 PM

Remember the movie Die Hard 3 or 2, the 911 was jammed? What if a terrorist attack that using spam to jam your cell phone. People will die. So freedom for network is that important? Is it really benefit you as a consumer?
It is really a fight between Google and the phone companies. It is really not about consumer and phone companies. We, the consumer, will have to pay one way or other.
FCC chairman is stupid. He forgot there is a law that government action cannot cause business to loss money. You are asking the phone companies to loss money on your "free" or "network neutrality." Or Google "lobby" effect paid off?

Joe Tighe

October 25, 2009 11:41 AM

Net Neutrality legislation is not needed. Consumers would have less choice and higher costs. Internet service providers would incur additional costs and compliance overhead. Taxpayers would pay higher taxes to create and support additional government oversight organizations.

What business and consumers need is effective interpretation, oversight and enforcement of existing laws and regulations.

The US government is proposing broad new regulations for telecommunications and cable internet service providers.

The new proposals appear to target specific providers for regulation and government oversight. Specifically, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey has proposed the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009, or the “Net Neutrality” bill, outlining government policies to impose new governance and restrictions targeting telecommunications and cable providers AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner and Comcast.

The proposed is based on the unfounded fear that service providers will “control who can and cannot offer content, services and applications over the Internet utilizing such networks.”

The Markey bill indicates the vast majority of consumers receive services from only one or two dominant internet service providers. And, the bill says the national economy could be harmed “if” these providers interfered with access to internet applications.

The bill proposes regulations imposing equal treatment (eg price/performance) of all internet traffic and content, regardless of content type and delivery costs. Specifically, the legislation proposes internet service providers could not sell prioritized internet applications or services.

One of the main problems with the proposed legislation is the lack of recognition of costs to provide internet services. Some applications, such as video are bandwidth hogs and require significantly greater network infrastructure and associated costs to deliver when compared to the network infrastructure costs to deliver email access. Under the proposed legislation, services providers would have to charge the low bandwidth users (casual browsers and email readers) more to offset the higher costs of the video users. One result of the proposed legislation would be less consumer choice and a hidden “bandwidth hog tax”. Today, most service providers offer tiered products and pricing to consumers and businesses to account for the additional costs to deliver bandwidth intensive applications. You pay more if you use more under the tiered pricing model. These are not “discriminatory” practices. Rather, tiered pricing and application prioritization are sound business models delivering reliable, profitable product choices and unburdened internet ecommerce. Consumers and businesses currently have choices. The proposed legislation takes away choice and increases costs to consumers and businesses.

Another problem with the legislation is, certain applications such as voice and video over the internet require prioritization and special treatment to work properly. The proposed legislation makes existing application prioritization products and networking practices illegal. Internet service providers would have to dismantle these services to make all internet applications “equal” with no prioritization schema. The new legislation would kill off reliable voice and video over the internet as we know it.

The other problem with the Net Neutrality legislation is anti-trust and federal trade regulations are already in place to protect consumers and business from monopolistic practices and unfair trade. For example, when AT&T disconnected MCI customers in 1974, MCI filed and won a successful anti-trust lawsuit resulting in breakup of the AT&T monopoly. Another example is, the Federal Trade Commission recently investigated possible antitrust violations caused by the Apple and Google sharing two board directors. Arthur Levinson has since stepped down from both Apple and Google boards.

The US government would better use taxpayer dollars and valuable legislation time by asking two questions:

Which companies are hiring lobbyists and launching advertising campaigns promoting Net Neutrality legislation?

What is their agenda?

Disclosure – Joe Tighe has no paid relationships, products or endorsements from any company, political or government organization cited in this article.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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