A Common Sense Approach to Net NeutralityExpert Opinion, FCC, Net Neutrality December 7th, 2009
Leonard Grace, Expert Opinion, BroadbandBreakfast.com
There are two compelling sides to the Net Neutrality issue before the Federal Communications Commission that can be solved by cutting through the rhetoric and making a few common sense and objective decisions about what is at the crux of the problem.
First, Internet Service Providers are at the center of the debate, and rightfully so, since without the ISP’s providing the gateway for Internet usage, there is no issue. The power of discrimination lays solely in the hands of the Comcast’s, AT&T’s, Time Warner Cable’s, Verizon’s, and other providers of the ISP pipelines.
This is a huge social responsibility for private sector companies, who do not necessarily compete with each other in every market, in controlling the complexities of sharing access to all who ask. The Internet has evolved into more than just picking which provider will allow individuals or companies to link through to others; it has evolved into a massive highway of commerce and social connection. And this is where the problem with competing interests and two sides of the coin begins to emerge.
To solve the issue the FCC can take either of two paths in ensuring openness and fairness to all concerned, with both large and small stakes, in both getting where they need to go and receiving what needs to receive, via broadband. One path is to let the market sort itself out; in that encouraging competition within the marketplace between ISP providers will create less of a reason for providers to favor one entity over another or risk losing customers to the competition.
This would work well if it was easy and inexpensive to get into the ISP business while building an infrastructure to support a broadband pipe sufficient enough handle the range of users, content, and applications needed to ensure true competition. Only Verizon, to my knowledge, is able say that it welcomes all comers with its FTTH-FIOS infrastructure and with bandwidth to spare.
An alternative path would be to mandate all ISP providers open their networks to competitors and set standards for download and upload speeds, thereby ensuring everyone is treated equal. And yes, creating tiers of service for unusual traffic needs. While this could be considered a heavy-handed approach, it does take somewhat of a burden off the private sector in choosing whether to upgrade their networks for increased bandwidth, or which entity it will prefer when having to choose between conflicts of interest, protection polices, or Wall Street demands.
But a common sense approach is fraught with political mine fields. Lobbying is alive and well on Capitol Hill and the larger companies have the lawyers, insiders, and money to back up those efforts. However, in my opinion, there needs to be a compromise between public and private sectors that are willing to support an (Internet Super-Highway) which fosters innovation, competition, new businesses, and robust commerce that spreads success to all corners of our country. It is only common sense!