Mark Goldberg

FCC launches net neutrality inquiry

FCCThe FCC has launched an inquiry into net neutrality, although the language they used was an inquiry “into broadband market practices.”

The FCC’s press release invites comments on:

  • How broadband providers are managing Internet traffic on their networks today
  • Whether providers charge different prices for different speeds or capacities of
  • Whether our policies should distinguish between content providers that charge
    end users for access to content and those that do not
  • How consumers are affected by these practices

The Notice of Inquiry further seeks comment on whether the Policy Statement should incorporate a new principle of nondiscrimination and, if so, how would “nondiscrimination” be defined, and how would such a principle read.

The Chair, Kevin Martin added:

We have the dual responsibilities of creating an environment that promotes infrastructure investment and broadband deployment and to ensure that consumers’ access to content on the Internet is protected. We can best fulfill these responsibilities by being fully informed.

The Notice of Inquiry process is being criticized by two of the Commissioners (Adelstein and Copps) as being too lengthy. They would have preferred a procedure such as NPRM, that sets out a proposed rule making for comment by all parties. The majority echo the sentiments of the Chair.

As such, it appears to me that this process is to assert FCC control of the debate. Some advocates of net neutrality have begun to cast the issue in terms of ‘truth in advertising’ – perhaps to move the debate under the Federal Trade Commission. Their position is that non-neutral networks may be permitted, but cannot be sold as ‘the internet.’

Earlier this week, the UK regulator, Ofcom indicated that it believes that there are sufficient anti-discrimination provisions to deal with net neutrality concerns already existing within the EU regulatory framework.

We’ll keep on eye on this file.

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