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November 14, 2008

Net Neutrality Back in the Spotlight

The latest question related to tech due to the Obama election is concerning net neutrality legislation.  The telco and cable providers are wary because the Republican legislative ability to shield them is diminished.  Obama and his team understand the Internet far more than anyone ever elected to the presidency.  Earlier this year the FCC found Comcast to have discriminated against P2P content in contravention of agency rules policy.  Though Comcast "voluntarily" stopped the practice and promised to disclose network management practices to its customers, the company sued to overturn the order.  Comcast claims the FCC has no authority to issue such orders on network management practices.

The rest of the ISP industry now believe that the suit challenging the FCC order is ill advised.  Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) is preparing legislation that would codify network neutrality principles.  Providers now believe a more flexible approach would come through the FCC regulation as that, at least, could be open to interpretation (and lobbying).  A successful suit for Comcast will almost certainly see a net neutrality bill pass the 111th Congress and signed by (soon to be) President Obama.  If the FCC wins, legislation may appear that clearly defines the ability of the agency to regulate in this area.  Another question is who will Obama pick to run the FCC now that the agency is headed back to majority control by Democrats.

Jim Cicconi, AT&T executive vice president for regulatory affairs suggests that market forces are a better guide as customers would be reluctant to buy Internet services from AT&T if the company discriminated against content.  Maybe, but if most providers had a green light to discriminate in the name of network management practices, their may not be much distinction between consumer choices.  In any event, those in favor of net neutrality in one form or another should be heartened by the election.  Let the fierce lobbying begin.

More in the Washington Post here and here, CNET, Ars Technica, and dslreports.com.  [MG]

November 14, 2008 | Permalink

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