Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

Pressure continues to rise over net neutrality

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Seventy two Democrats in the House of Representatives, and the Communication Workers Union of America, have published letters to the US Federal Communications Commission urging caution over the FCC’s proposal to enshrine net neutrality in the US regulatory environment.

The Democrats letter [registration required; limited viewing time] is reported to contrast the ‘growth an application’ under the current regulatory regime of new internet applications with the ‘limited evidence demonstrating any tangible harm’, before concluding that:

We remain suspicious of conclusions based on slogans rather than substance and of policies that restrict and inhibit the very innovation and growth we all seek to achieve.

In its letter, sent last Thursday, the CWA takes a rather more sober and objective perspective, seeking to ensure that, at a time of 10 per cent unemployment, the FCC’s rulemaking in this area ‘does not have an adverse impact on investment and job creation.’ The CWA calls for ‘reasoned discussion amongst all stakeholders’ about the ‘technical requirements of network management and the economics of broadband build-out’, while nevertheless seeking to underline the principle of ‘protecting an open Internet’. Specifically, it calls on the FCC to protect consumers from ‘unreasonable discrimination’ while reminding of the benefits of high-speed broadband and the concomitant traffic management issues, and that revenues from managed services are ‘an essential component of the business case for broadband investment’.

The CWA response is an admirable attempt to square the circle between principle and practice. As I’ve blogged below, I do agree with the line that the economics of broadband roll-out require traffic management policies, although I’m less persuaded of the importance to investment of business models relying, at this stage in the product cycle, on revenues stemming from facilitating preferential treatment for the network providers’ ‘own’ services, whether through traffic management requirements or otherwise. Here, my preference remains for an open internet as the priority and that a non-discrimination rule should be required of network providers in terms of how they manage net traffic.

A draft of the proposal is thought to be circulating amongst FCC Commissioners ahead of the public debate later this week – unlike other leaks in the news today (which appear to have crashed the site in the period immediately before posting this piece), it hasn’t yet made it over to wikileaks – and the Chair of the FCC has already assured network providers that the regulation will not impinge on their abilities to manage net traffic during times of peak demand.

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Written by Calvin

20/10/2009 at 2:06 pm

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