WASHINGTON, October 21, 2009 - As the Federal Communications Commission nears the monthly meeting slated for Thursday to consider new regulations regarding Net neutrality, e-mail boxes across Washington are being flooded by all manner of interest groups staking their claim over neutrality and freedom on the Internet.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s decision to take steps toward formal Net neutrality regulations is not surprising, particularly given President Barack Obama’s campaign pledge was to “strongly support the principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet.”
Businesses and interest groups have taken hard-line stances for and against Net neutrality. The term deals with how broadband providers may charge differential rates for preferred business customers.
“The rise of serious challenges to the free and open Internet puts us at a crossroads,” Genachowski said in a September speech at the Brookings Institution. “We could see the Internet’s doors shut to entrepreneurs, the spirit of innovation stifled, a full and free flow of information compromised. Or we could take steps to preserve internet openness, helping ensure a future of opportunity, innovation, and a vibrant marketplace of ideas.”
Internet companies such as Amazon, Google, and Skype, among others, favor Net neutrality rules. Dan Martin of Google told BroadbandCensus.com Wednesday that "opponents are trying to confuse the issue, but network neutrality is about networks that control consumer access to the Internet, not the plethora of applications, services, and viewpoints on the Internet itself.”
“This is about ensuring that a handful of broadband corporations can't determine what people can see, do, or say on the Internet," he said.
The Open Internet Coalition on Wednesday hosted an animated press call with reporters. Speakers included representatives from Amazon.com and Free Press.
On the other side are carriers including AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon Communications. Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg on Wednesday warned against “pitting network providers and applications developers against each other in a zero-sum game, when the real promise of broadband is an expanding pie for everybody,” in remarks at the Supercomm conference in Chicago.
“Rather than impose rigid rules on a rapidly changing industry, the FCC should focus on creating the conditions for growth,” he said. Steve Largent, president & CEO of CTIA-The Wireless Association, said in an email that “Our greatest concern is that if Net neutrality is enacted for wireless, the U.S. will lose its leadership in the wireless world.”
Adding fuel to the fire in favor of regulation have been tech CEOs, Public Knowledge and the Christian Coalition. Those concerned about the FCC's potential action include the Chamber of Commerce, some governors, minority groups, the Free State Foundation, and National Association of Manufacturers.
A letter from a variety of non-profit groups said the “outcry over a proposal the public has yet to see is clearly intended to halt the dialogue over the proper rules of the road for an open Internet before it even starts.”
The FCC has also received a significant amount of attention from Congress, including from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. A letter signed by Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., among others, urges the FCC Chairman to “avoid tentative conclusions which favor government regulation.”
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A recent split of operations helps to clarify the mission of BroadbandCensus.com. Broadband Census Data LLC offers commercial broadband verification services to cities, states, carriers and broadband users. Created in July 2009, Broadband Census Data LLC produced a joint application in the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program with Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program. In August 2009, BroadbandCensus.com released a beta map of Columbia, South Carolina, in partnership with Benedict-Allen Community Development Corporation.
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